Minding experience: An exploration of the concept of “experience” in the early French anthropology of Durkheim, Lévy-Bruhl, and Lévi-Strauss



In line with the growing concern with the unexamined reliance upon the concept of “experience” in anthropology, this article explores in some detail the various usages and definitions of the concept in the work of three of early French anthropology's most influential theorists: Émile Durkheim (1858–1918), Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (1857–1939), and Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–). With its important influence on both British and American anthropology, the early French anthropological tradition, as epitomized in the writings of these three thinkers, has indeed played a pivotal role in shaping many current taken-for-granted understandings of the concept of experience in the discipline of anthropology as a whole. In the process of exploring how experience is viewed by these three scholars, this paper will thus take some initial steps toward the historical contextualization of many of the unquestioned assumptions underpinning current understandings of experience in the discipline of anthropology and the social sciences more generally. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.