The Elementary Structures of Kinship  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Structural anthropology, kinship

The Elementary Structures of Kinship (French: Les structures élémentaires de la parenté) is a book by French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, first published in 1949 by the Presses Universitaires de France.

In 1948 Lévi-Strauss received his doctorate from the Sorbonne by submitting, in the French tradition, both a "major" and a "minor" thesis. These were The Family and Social Life of the Nambikwara Indians and The Elementary Structures of Kinship, both based on ethnographic fieldwork in South America.

The Elementary Structures of Kinship was published in 1949 and quickly came to be regarded as one of the most important anthropological works on kinship. It was even reviewed favorably by Simone de Beauvoir, who viewed it as an important statement of the position of women in non-western cultures. A play on the title of Durkheim's famous Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, Elementary Structures re-examined how people organized their families by examining the logical structures that underlay relationships rather than their contents. While British anthropologists such as Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown argued that kinship was based on descent from a common ancestor, Lévi-Strauss argued that kinship was based on the alliance between two families that formed when women from one group married men from another.

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