Two previously unpublished lectures charting the renowned anthropologist’s intellectual engagement with the sixteenth-century French essayist Michel de Montaigne
In January 1937, between the two ethnographic trips he would describe in Tristes Tropiques
, Claude Lévi-Strauss gave a talk to the Confédération générale du travail in Paris. Only recently discovered in the archives of the Bibliothèque national de France, this lecture, “Ethnography: The Revolutionary Science,” discussed the French essayist Michel de Montaigne, to whom Lévi-Strauss would return in remarks delivered more than a half-century later, in the spring of 1992. Bracketing the career of one of the most celebrated anthropologists of the twentieth century, these two talks reveal how Lévi-Strauss’s ethnography begins and ends with Montaigneand how his reading of his intellectual forebear and his understanding of anthropology evolve along the way.
Published here for the first time, these lectures offer new insight into the development of ethnography and the thinking of one of its most important practitioners. Essays by Emmanuel Désveaux, who edited the original French volume De Montaigne à Montaigne, and Peter Skafish expand the context of Lévi-Strauss’s talks with contemporary perspectives and commentary.