The Search for Correspondence and the Logic of the Sensible
Although texts written by Lévi-Strauss at the end of the 1930s indicate that his research trip to Brazil was made in search of a supposedly pure form of alterity, the structure and content of Tristes Tropiques, written fifteen years after his return, announce the abandonment of such a perspective. Beginning from the observation that “literature” for Lévi-Strauss does not seek to compensate for the shortcomings of science, this chapter works out precisely how Tristes Tropiques is connected to its author’s broader anthropological project. In so doing, it argues broadly that literature for Lévi-Strauss allows for the completion in writing of an ethnographic experience that was initially unsatisfying because it was found to have been undertaken under flawed premises. By rejecting travel writing, Tristes Tropiques also rejects any continuity between fieldwork and the finished anthropological texts, all of which severs anthropology from its perceived connections with early forms of voyaging and exploration.
Keywords: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, Alterity, Travel writing, Fieldwork