On my way home, I was thinking about fish.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, considered by many as the a pillar of modern anthropology (or at the very least, the father of structuralism), died this week at the ripe old age of 100. Lévi-Strauss was difficult reading back then; I distinctly remember photocopied readings from book excerpts that were highlighted and marked for pop quizzes and long exams. Yet as difficult as Lévi-Strauss was to understand and to comprehend, he’s a very useful repository of how to understand society. The ties that bind us all together are not only the relationships we have with individual and groups, but the cultural practices that transformed us all.
Lévi-Strauss is very well remembered for The Raw and the Cooked. If I remember it right (and please correct me if I’m wrong), human behavior revolved around what is “natural” (that which exists in its own state in the physical world) and what is “cultural” (that which is affected by the practices and rituals of man). The whole thesis of The Raw and the Cooked was a structural analysis of myth (and everything else in Mythologies) and the search of cultural universals, but I can’t remember that now. Perhaps that celebration and commemoration of Lévi-Strauss is left to authentic, practicing anthropologists, ethnologists, and the students of that interesting – if not absurd and fun and wacky – discipline that stands on his shoulders.
Most notable – and perhaps the most remembered – is cooking. What is there is transformed; in other words, practiced, “done.” Culture is all about transformation. Culture transforms not only people, but what people do.
Culture transforms fish.