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The Joy of Tropiques

Ed. Adam Pisarek

 

 

About issue:

Collection of fundamental questions that accompanied Lévi-Strauss during his writing of “ethnographic memories,” a character of doubts and a size of disappointment place his anthropological prose on the side of existential anthropocentricism. During his travels around the world, and especially while visiting “tristes tropiques”, he could see the same invariants that influenced the shape of his “family Europe.”

However, if anyone today is willing to get rid of, at least for a moment, existential boringness and discouragement – a trace of past epoch – and devote oneself to the joy of searching, in the work of Lévi-Strauss, for inspiration and motivation to carry on the process of getting familiar with oneself through the Other, they have every right to do so. If the satisfaction coming from gradual familiarization, reading and interpretation can be shared, if a conversation is able to create a possibility to better understanding and agreement, it is definitely worth making use of that opportunity. This “Laboratory of Culture” issue gives you this chance.

prof. Ewa Kosowska

 

 

Content / Summary:

 

Ewa Kosowska, Welcome, Tristes!

Collection of fundamental questions that accompanied Lévi-Strauss during his writing of “ethnographic memories,” a character of doubts and a size of disappointment place his anthropological prose on the side of existential anthropocentricism. During his travels around the world, and especially while visiting “tristes tropiques”, he could see the same invariants that influenced the shape of his “family Europe.”

However, if anyone today is willing to get rid of, at least for a moment, existential boringness and discouragement – a trace of past epoch – and devote oneself to the joy of searching, in the work of Lévi-Strauss, for inspiration and motivation to carry on the process of getting familiar with oneself through the Other, they have every right to do so. If the satisfaction coming from gradual familiarization, reading and interpretation can be shared, if a conversation is able to create a possibility to better understanding and agreement, it is definitely worth making use of that opportunity. This “Laboratory of Culture” issue gives you this chance.

 

Marek Pacukiewicz, Unwritten Tristes Tropiques. Claude Lévi-Strauss and Joseph Conrad

Author’s aim is to contemplate the boundaries of Tristes Tropiques starting with one of the literary trails, or rather literary myths. Lévi-Strauss considers Tristes Tropiques to be his one of the dream but unwritten books. He admits to his fascination with Joseph Conrad, and describes him as his favorite writer; the anthropologist even claims that he would like to write his books. As a result Tristes Tropiques at the beginning was meant to be a “Conrad-like” novel. He planned to describe, let’s say, an intrigue that would be classical for an English writer: the natives are misled by white people using the sounds made by a pathé that resemble those made by ghosts. From the planned novel there are only fragments describing sunsets which are classical “Conrad-like” fragments. The article answers the question in which directions the dilemmas presented by the sun set lead us; shows that they were already expressed in the previous chapters of the book and that they will be coming back in the next chapters. Real threat announced by the deception of presentation may have different fiction names and forms: they can be Munde Indians that are so wild that they aren’t recognizable; it can be a “chase after power” leading us to the boundaries just in order to give us the opportunity to boast with a great album of photographies; it is also “enthropology” examining the processes connected with disintegration of cultures and warning against them.

 

Małgorzata Rygielska, Inwards Brazil, inwards ethnology

This article deals with the matter of problems pervading culture researchers up to date despite their belonging to different schools or researching trends. Lévi-Strauss continuously cherishes his reflections connected with the essence of ethnology, purposefulness and ethics of ethnological research and with the methods that are used in conducting them. Some of the notions present in “Tristes Tropiques”, creating a unified wholeness and still coming back in the book, can be perceived as “methodological – and ethical – deliberations over the nature of studies at first linked to travels, and later put into a framework of modern science – ethnology.” A travel inwards ethnology, which was triggered by a real research travel to Brazil, is multipronged. Its route is marked not only by readings, but also by some elements of material culture, various behaviors and institutions that are often compared by Lévi-Strauss to prior descriptions of Indian tribes.

 

Adam Pisarek, Don Quixote Syndrome. Tristes Tropiques or tilting at windmills

A starting point of this article is a trace which is a huge intellectual challenge for everybody that reads the French structuralist and wants to understand his creation. In an extended interview Conversations with Claude Lévi-Strauss, he reveals the key to his soul saying that his mind is led by Don Quixote. After such a clear declaration, the interpretative perspective of Tristes Tropique – where a knight-errant evolves into one of the fundamental figures – becomes obvious.

Eventually, it turns out that Don Quixote travels in order to influence the surrounding reality actively. In his mind, the reflection of past overlays the presence and impels him to act, ignores the boundaries. Because of that he becomes a madman. Lévi-Strauss travels In order to move back In time. An etnographer role excuses this eccentric undertaking. Procedures imposed by science create the necessary distance but at the same time they become the source of non-fulfillment.

The article attempts to answer a question whether Don Quixote – his thoughts and actions influence the things; whether they are a union of That What is analogical. If the answer was yes, what would be the great anthropologist’s dream, whose mind is controlled by a knight-errant?

 

Patryk Filipowicz, Tristes Tropiques, about the joy of getting familiar with the other

An analysis of the meeting appears together with deliberations considering the dialog philosophy and usually regards interpersonal relations: “man – man” or “God – man”. The most important trend of this reflection have its root in thinkers like Martin Buber or Franz Rosenzweig and later in Emmanuel Levinas. Their contemplation, confronted with the content of Tristes Tropiques and ethnographic procedures of Lévi-Strauss, creates surprising contexts.

Similarities emerge, mainly in the ethic field, in the attitude of the researcher and in some elements of meetings, where different relations between their entities appear. It turns out that unveiling the structure and the mechanism doesn’t have to be identified beforehand with taking away an object of the research, with insight. Speech and free will of the other let them speak to me and become silent.

 

Adriana Świątek, Between sanctity and madness. About an Antonin Artaud’s travel to Sierra Tarahumara, i.e. to the land of theatre’s “resurrection”

What does it mean to ravel? What is an expedition, being on your way? Where does the wild need to leave one’s land come from? The article deals with two travels understood as a vehicle that may take you to the Other, and at the same time desired cultural field. Lévi-Strauss goes to Brazil and Antonin Artaud to Mexico. Both Frenchmen leave their homeland – Europe in order to take a challenge of finding their new “I” in a new configuration of the world. Multiplied question marks triggering new travels, that when once started – never end, are the consequence of that decision.

Between sanctity and madness reconstruct Artaud’s way to the core of his own existence and tries to prove that the power of influence of the Theatre and Its Double author’s vision lays in its message that invites for the lonely travel inside oneself. Its concept will stop resembling a utopia when a man looking for its being, not a passive and impersonal observer, collides their inner impulse with an offered outer impulse. Lévi-Strauss discovers his “physically and morally buffeted by exhaustion, hunger and a sense of discomfort” “I”. He comes back to his lair and tells us that “a man is not more alone in the universe than an individual in a group or a society between other societies”.

 

Kamil Buchta, About the self-creation of travels and ethnography?

The article referring to a term “ethnographic self-creation” advances an interpretative hypothesis for Tristes Tropiques by Lévi-Strauss. The work of the French anthropologist, created more than a dozen years ago, before the publication of a Diary by Malinowski, can be understood as self-creation of travels and ethnography.

An answer for another problem is also searched. It was formulated as follows: why the intimate notes of Malinowski, and not the publication of the work by Lévi-Strauss, made such a fuss in the world of anthropology? Is it because of the naive belief in the fact that intimate notes are some kind of unmasking in relation to science works, and Tristes Tropiques is a construction formed from different types of discourses but well-considered, and is not a manifestation of truth?

It turns out that the solution for this problem is a thesis that narrative strategies, regarding anthropologic texts, allow to discover the meanings that were skipped earlier. However, authors of such interpretations exaggerate in stressing literary measures and they actually put an equals sign between belles-lettres and anthropologic texts, despite the fact that they belong to different orders, and that the extratextual context in anthropology I more important that the narrative layer.

 

Magdalena Pospieszałowska, In search of the lost state

The article defends a thesis that the state of nature demands sacrificing culture, in which we live. It may be a free-will but only partial withdrawal from the field of society as in Henry David Thoreau. It also may be connected with an attempt to get to the end of humankind as in Lévi-Strauss.

Here we stand face to face with the structural opposition of nature and culture. We have to make our mind considering the bitter truth which says that the commonly desired and persistent search for Elysium is possible to achieve only as a result of degeneration, withdrawal that doesn’t reject but destroys culture. Joining the thoughts of Proust, Henry David Thoreau and Lévi-Strauss leads to unexpected conclusions, and suggests to revalue the ideas that rule our culture.

 

Rafał Gajos, Contemporary Gulliver’s travels – traces of utopia and dystopia in Tristes Tropiques by C. Lévi-Strauss

The article follows different levels, which the utopia in Tristes Tropiques can function on. The first one would be the level of the world presented, i.e. the world of the “wild” and foreign cultures that Lévi-Strauss met. Does Lévi-Strauss, comparing things Here and There, liken dreams of the man of the West with those of the “wild” man? Making the question clearer: do the cultures existing in Southern America and India (as well as on the pages of Lévi-Strauss’s book) have utopias? The second level is the one of the presentation, i.e. a question about constructing the exotic worlds of Tristes Tropiques by using particular conventions characteristic for utopias or dystopias. On the highest level the author asks whether the theory of Lévi-Strauss is utopian.

Deliberations lead to the conclusion that today the Lévi-Strauss’s theory of utopia is out-of-date, but it played its role in the history, at first being a dream which must be realized, and later becoming a reality that must be escaped. There is only a trace, whose durability depends on how many people will decide to follow it along the sea of free existence and unlimited semiosis.

 

Karolina Górczyńska, Don’t you always be surprised, mister! About space and time travels and social hierarchy.

The essay attempts to create a philosophy of cognition based on a category of surprise. This surprise was the driving force of expanding the knowledge and a trigger for intellect. It was and still is a ”compulsion” for exploring the world, the reason for scouting, a spark causing a desire to possess light. It is triggered whenever we experience the other, unknown and strange.

The author claims that this surprise coming from the travel is based on experiencing the transformation of the three basic categories: time, space and hierarchy. Each of them can intensify the perception of outer stimuli , however, very often leading to deformations in their scope. Each country and each culture have their own language of space and time which is as unique as a spoken language, sometimes even more.

 

Kamil Kozakowski, Tristes Tropiques, about the joy of getting familiar with the other

An analysis of the meeting appears together with deliberations considering the dialog philosophy and usually regards interpersonal relations: “man – man” or “God – man”. The most important trend of this reflection have its root in thinkers like Martin Buber or Franz Rosenzweig and later in Emmanuel Levinas. Their contemplation, confronted with the content of Tristes Tropiques and ethnographic procedures of Lévi-Strauss, creates surprising contexts.

A similarities emerge, mainly in the ethic field, in the attitude of the researcher and in some elements of meetings, where different relations between their entities appear. It turns out that unveiling the structure and the mechanism doesn’t have to be identified beforehand with taking away an object of the research, with insight. Speech and free will of the other let them speak to me and become silent.

 

 

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