Structuralism Essay

2246 Words Apr 2nd, 2013 9 Pages
Structuralism Essay

Introduction
Functionalism created a number of concerns in the late 1950s that shaped a “climate of receptivity to a rather different form of analysis, known as ‘structuralism’” (Bell, 1997, pg.42). Structuralism aimed to uncover the underlying meanings and patterns of social constructs. These meanings can only to be found by interpreting the ritual participants unconscious understanding of the symbols used and the overall context. Levi-Strauss is the founding father of structuralism, as it is applied to anthropology. Many have refined his thesis such as E.E.Evans-Pritchard and Arnold van Gennep. This essay outlines the main features of the theoretical position, the key proponents of the theory as well it critically
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Their understanding of the ritual and symbols are not fixed, which means the ritual meanings are projected and passed on through context and repetition (Bell, 1997). “For a true structuralist, there is no reality except the relation between things” (Barnard, 2000, pg. 120).
Rituals evolve to facilitate group cooperation, establish community position and roles as well as strengthen community ties. This said it is in the eye of the beholder in how this happens. The ritual participants must interpret the ritual meanings and shift reality accordingly. It is not simply the ritual act in itself that facilitates the social change. Overall structuralism isn’t concerned with a persons or peoples behavior during a ritual “structuralism is mainly concerned with culture as an abstraction-not peoples actual behavior, but the idealized pattern it approximates” (Barnard, 2000, pg. 128).
The key proponents of Structuralism
Functionalism created a number of concerns in the late 1950s that produced a “climate of receptivity to a rather different form of analysis, known as “structuralism”, which was propounded by the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (b.1908)” (Bell, 1997, pg.42). Levi-Strauss regarded ritual and other social acts as “symbolic systems of communication” that existed innately in the human biology (Bell, 1997, pg.42). Humans apply these symbolic systems to social constructs in order to understand

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