By Claude Levi-Strauss
Seminal recommendations by way of the founding father of Structural Anthropology. English translation of the print model of Levi-Strauss' inaugural lecture as Chair of Social Anthropology, collage de France, January fifth, 1960.
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Deep-sea trawling by securely-capitalised companies was the New-foundland government’s preferred solution to the plight of its ‘outport’ communities after its confederation with Canada in 1949. These numerous small, isolated hamlets had been founded by the British sailors who ‘jumped ship’ from the sixteenth century onwards and who settled in the most inaccessible places they could find in order to evade recapture. Their economy was based on summer cod-fishing and subsistence cultivation. The cod was salted and marketed through companies which ensured the ongoing indebtedness of the fishermen whose families processed their catches.
Theoretical underpinnings 17 two decades, such attempts have regularly drawn their material from the computerised Ethnographic Atlas compiled by Murdock for precisely this kind of investigation. For some forty years before Malinowski entered the discipline, anthropologists had been collecting their own information from exotic places. But it is with Malinowski (rather than Miklouho-Maclay, or even Boas) that we associate the technique of ‘participant’ (as opposed to direct) observation, based on personal fluency in the language of the society concerned.
The only surprise about this change of attitude was that it had taken so long to occur, for in his study of the offshore fishery in the east coast state of Kelantan, Malaya, at the Marginalised economic activities in the world system 31 beginning of the second world war, Firth (1946) had arrived at a similar conclusion and made precisely such recommendations. Malayan fishermen, Muslims who for centuries had been linked into larger political entities and regional fish-trading networks stretching over a thousand miles, were part of a fully-monetised peasant economy.