[lit-ideas] Geary's Re-Write of Levi-Strauss, Structures de la Parente

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 5 Nov 2009 22:44:31 EST

In Geary's scheme of things, Spanish (as he overhears in kitchens) is  
somewhat perfect:
"They don't distinguish between "daughter" and "son" -- the spicks don't -- 
 it's all "hijo" for them. Ditto, the distinction between 'brother' and 
'sister'  is similarly immaterial, it's all "hermano". I'm surprised they 
distinguish  between 'father' and 'mother'".
The idea is indeed to keep kinship terms to their easiest. A mother is a  
she-father. A daughter is a she-son, and a sister is a she-brother. 
Note that Russell's theory does not hold in Spanish:
   "Peter is Mary's brother" --
In Spanish, this yields, "Mary is Peter's brother", which she ain't. But in 
 Geary's rewrite, she is Peter's she-brother.
Spanish has 'tio' and 'tia', whereas Geary's kinshipese has 'she-uncle' for 
 the latter.
she-grandfather is of course grandmother. The idea is to undermine any  
suggestion that Levi-Strauss is being sexist.
J. L. Speranza
Geary takes analyses of exchange abstraction and abstract masculinity into  
account to critique Levi-Strauss' writings on kinship and the family. Her  
central thesis is that Levi-Strauss' theory of exchange of women must be set 
 within a larger theoretical context, and that it leads to a phallocratic  
mystification of women's material lives and a location of women's oppression 
 within the sphere of ideology rather than material relations. 
Levi-Strauss'  paradigm, when critically analyzed from material standpoint, can 
be seen 
as  articulating a series of artificial and ahistorical dualisms.  
In Hartsock's reading of Levi-Strauss, valuable activity takes place at the 
 level of the symbol; that which is abstract and unattainable is valued 
over  concrete, and the production of symbols is privileged over material life  
activity. Women are completely external to the making of symbols and the  
exchange, exist only as commodities to be exchanged among men, and can be  
constituted only as "same" or "other". Based as this system is on 
asymmetrically  weighted dualisms, women are read as "not fully human" in their 
to  nature. However, as Hartsock writes, "[w]omen are the literal and 
material  producers of men, who in turn like to imagine that the situation is  
Hartsock thus challenges Levi-Strauss' claim to contribute to Marxist  
theorizing on a number of points: that his definition of social organization is 
Eurocentric and assigns only a symbolic capacity (rather than a production  
exchange relation) to so-called "primitive" societies; Levi-Strauss' 
privileging  of intellect over practice; Levi-Strauss' ahistoricity; 
contention  that human beings are not intrinsically social but rather 
construct a society  (against "natural" instincts); and finally Levi-Strauss' 
method, which has more  in common with traditional positivism. 

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