Jon Bialecki

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touring mythologiques

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As many of you probably know, this sleepy, slightly shabbily-maintained blog is not my only online presence. I have a twitter handle, of course, and AnthroCyBib, which is a site I co-founded roughly seven years ago with James Bielo. AnthroCyBib is bustling, in part due to a bevy of new blood that was brought in recently, and in part due to the fact that James and I brought in two terrific co-curators a few years ago. Still, my “WordPress name” dates from back when it just James and I making this thing hobble on all by our lonesome, so I like to tell myself I still have a little ownership of it. 

But to get to the point I was working towards, I have very recently started another blog. It’s called touring mythologiques, and its…well, a tour of the four volume Mythologiques series by Claude Lévi-Strauss. By tour, I mean a series of (very) close readings of the book, starting from the very beginning. If you want to know how detailed the readings are, well, let me tell you I spent about two thousand words analyzing the dedication page to the first volume of the series, The Raw and the Cooked. 

As you can probably guess from the fact that takes four volumes to go through, and also that I’m not working at breakneck speed, this is a long term project. And as far as I know, it is not like any other project at all; last night a friend asked me who else is doing something similar, and all I could do was stare at the ceiling looking thoughtful. This might not even seem to be a worthwhile endeavor; Lévi-Strauss is not exactly what we would call trendy these days in anthropology, and Mythologiques is at best “largely unread,” as a friend of my mentioned in a twitter post about the site. So why do it? 

It’s not that I’m trying to bring Lévi-Strauss back from the grave, that much is certain. My biggest influence outside of anthropology is Gilles Deleuze, who was infamous for his disdain for structuralism in his mature years.  And it’s not because there is some resonance between our field sites (to the degree that you can even say that Lévi-Strauss had a ‘field site’). Whether it is transhumanist Mormons or Southern Californian Charismatic Evangelicals, it would be hard to shoehorn any of my projects into his. One could say, I guess, that the reason for this exercise is that it is so foreign to my work. Anthropology is not about alterity, but it is about human capacity to differ, meaning both self-differ as individuals or groups change over time, but also to differ from themselves. And there is a considerable degree of difference when thinking about the contemporary American religious moment in comparison to Lévi-Strauss. But, to be honest, “I don’t know” is the real reason. I’m not saying that I do not know the real reason, but rather that I have no idea what will happen with this project, what I will write, what it will do to me, what I might become. This is an experiment – possibly a quite protracted one – and there is no knowing its effects.

Of course, this won’t be my only project. I still will be writing about transhumanism and religion, about American Evangelicalism, about Global Christianity and the Anthropology of Christianity, about the relation between theology and anthropology, about ethics, ontology, character, theories of religion, and all the other areas I keep dipping my beak in. Only now, at the same time as I address all those topics and more, a little bit of myself will be on a trek, touring the Mythologiques as well. 

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