chapter
structuralism
Pages 2

In the 1940s Lévi-Strauss found himself in New York as a refugee. He came with some experience of fieldwork among South American Indians and with a fascination for the great wealth of accumulated ethnographic data on the North American Indians which had been published in a largely unanalysed form by the American Smithsonian Institution. This material was mainly transcription and translation of what elderly Native Americans could remember of their youth and the myths and stories that had been told to them. The sheer volume of this data seemed to require an analytical approach and, at first, Lévi-Strauss was swayed by the *Boasian tradition which, in its later developments, had become influenced by the psychological theory called †Gestalt theory (Benedict 1934). This stressed how human beings coped with information and emotions by creating encompassing configurations of knowledge. Gestalt theory stressed how cultures formed ‘patterns’.