Accepted Paper:

Intimate visions: Claude and Dina Lévi-Strauss in Brazil  


Luciana Martins (Birkbeck, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Based on published and archival materials held by Brazilian and French institutions, this paper brings to light Dina Lévi-Strauss' contribution to Claude Lévi-Strauss' visual archive of Brazil. It explores questions of authorship, self-image and intimacy in the making of anthropological knowledge.

Paper long abstract:

In 1935 Claude Lévi-Strauss went to Brazil as part of a group of French academics in order to help establish the University of São Paulo. Over the summer holidays, Claude travelled to Mato Grosso accompanied by his wife Dina (née Dreyfus), undertaking ethnographic fieldwork. In addition to collecting artefacts for the Musée de l'Homme, the couple took photographs and filmed local peoples. Three years later, they were back in the interior of Brazil, this time travelling to the Amazon region. Having contracted a serious eye infection after little more than a week of fieldwork among the Nambikwara, Dina was forced to return to São Paulo, leaving for Paris soon afterwards. In the spring of 1939, Claude separated from Dina. While Claude was to become a renowned anthropologist, Dina's career followed a less stellar trajectory; she later worked as a philosophy teacher in a Lycée, followed by a university post, eventually becoming an inspecteur général in the French education system. Throughout her career she maintained an interest in the relationship between philosophy and pedagogy, and was one of the pioneers of popular philosophy in television broadcasting. Claude meanwhile turned to a more popular audience only in retirement, notably within the publication of his Saudades do Brasil: A Photographic Memoir, in 1994. The book was followed by Saudades de São Paulo, published in Brazil in 1996. Focusing on these nostalgic publications and a much larger visual archive, this paper explores Dina's role in the making and presentation of Claude's fieldwork in Brazil.

Panel P18
Revisiting the gaze and reinterpreting images across space and time: Photography, subjects, and viewers