A lesser known but key milestone in any modern theory of social construction, identity and semiotic studies can be found in an article commissioned by UNESCO from Claude Lévi-Strauss for a collection on art and science that was published in 1952 as “Race and History”.
The paper represented the fulfilment of a plan by Lévi-Strauss to adopt the “rigorous approach” of the linguistics of Saussure into the “field of social organization “. It can be seen as a deliberate elaboration of his 1949 studies in kinship that introduced structuralist methodology onto an unsuspecting French intellectual culture. The 1952 paper used anthropological premises to comment directly on the emergence of postcolonial third world emancipation. His paper simultaneously critiqued, in structuralist terms, the international reproduction of sameness and cultural homogeneity, and its underpinning hierarchy and ideology of cultural advancement, while at the same time commending the process of cultural differences and diversity that he saw emerging as a result of postcolonial liberation (Dosse 126-136). Structures, as studied in early societies, were decentred, deep and divergent system of codes – his sense of anthropology provided an ideological and non philosophical understanding of what is human, and what is distinct about the permanent process of cultural polymorphism (Doss 18-25). His anthropology provided premises for argument about political and cultural change in the contemporary world – premises that can continue to have relevance 50 years after the paper’s publication.