Upcoming Symposium: Living Structuralism/Le structuralisme vif

Living Structuralism

Living Structuralism

We are honoured to host Philippe Descola, Chair in the Anthropology of Nature at the Collège de France, and Jane Guyer, George Armstrong Kelly Professor of Anthropology at the Johns Hopkins University, for a one day symposium at the University of Toronto Scarborough on the subject of the continuing relevance and influence of structuralism.

Prof. Descola’s lecture is entitled: “Transformation transformed”. And Prof. Guyer’s lecture is entitled “Shape-shifting and Thinking Within Transitions: Reflections from Classic Sources.”

To respond to Prof. Descola’s lecture, we are privileged to have Michael Lambek, Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto, and Christopher Ball, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame. Responding to Prof. Guyer’s lecture, we are grateful to have Janice Boddy, Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto, and Ato Quayson, Professor of English Literature and Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University of Toronto.

The symposium will be held in the Arts and Administration Building at UTSC, in Room AA160.

Here is a schedule for the symposium’s (draft) program:


9:30                 Arrival

10:00               Michael Silverstein, Introduction

Philippe Descola, “Transformation Transformed”

11:10               Coffee

11:20               Responses from Michael Lambek & Chris Ball



2:00                 Christopher Ball, Introduction
Jane Guyer, “Shape-shifting and Thinking Within Transitions: Reflections from Classic Sources”

3:10                 Coffee

3:20                 Responses from Janice Boddy & Ato Quayson



Upcoming Conference: Cosmologies of the Collective, Notre Dame, April 12-14th




SCHEDULE Cosmologies of the Collective


SUNDAY, April 12

Speakers                                    McKenna Hall // Room 210 – Room 213     

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM                  Panel 1: Collective Action & the State

Chair Christopher Ball

Anthropology, University of Notre Dame


El Sapo Speaks: Police Informers, State Voice and Latino Labor Migrants in Israel
Alejandro Paz

Anthropology, University of Toronto


Finding the Future in Deliberative Process: A Pragmatist Critique of the Dual-Process Model
Ann Mische

Sociology, University of Notre Dame


Democracy, Naked and Rambling

Jessica Greenberg

Anthropology, University of Illinois




4:00 PM – 4:30 PM                 COFFEE BREAK


4:30 PM – 5:20PM

The Lure of Absolutes
Keynote Address by Andreas Glaeser

Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago


5:20 PM – 5:30 PM                  Response by Lyn Spillman

Sociology, University of Notre Dame


5:30 PM – 6:00 PM                  Discussion


6:00 PM                                   RECEPTION


MONDAY, April 13

Speakers                                    McKenna Hall // Room 210 – Room 213

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM                  COFFEE


8:30 AM – 10:30 AM                Panel 2: Semiotic Cosmologies

Chair, Alejandro Paz, Anthropology, University of Toronto


Structure as Habituating Processes of Self, Social Life, and Cosmos
Eugene Halton

Sociology, University of Notre Dame


Dialogue as Habit-making in Peirce’s Cosmology

Myrdene Anderson

Anthropology & Linguistics, Purdue University

Donna West

Spanish & Linguistics, SUNY Cortland


Social Facticity, Psychological Reality, & Communitarian Realism: Collectives in Three Cosmologies
Christopher Ball

Anthropology, University of Notre Dame




10:30 AM – 11:30 AM              COFFEE BREAK


11:30 AM – 12:20 PM

Risking Together
Keynote Address by Benjamin Lee

Professor of Anthropology & Philosophy, The New School for Social Research


12:20 PM – 12:30 PM              Response by Agustin Fuentes

Anthropology, University of Notre Dame


12:30 PM – 1:00 PM                Discussion


1:00 PM – 2:30 PM                  LUNCHEON

Speakers                                   McKenna Hall // Room 210 – Room 213


2:30 PM – 4:30 PM                  Panel 3: Political Structures and Knowledge

Chair Rahul Oka

Anthropology, University of Notre Dame


Technologies of the Collective: Democracy and Kinship in the Age of Deep Mediatization

Francis Cody

Anthropology, University of Toronto


Pharmocracy (or, Corporations, their Collectives, and Representative Politics in Global Biomedicine)

Kaushik Sunder Rajan

Anthropology, University of Chicago


Political Cosmology

Andrew Pendakis

English & Literature, Brock University




4:30 PM – 5:30 PM                  COFFEE BREAK


5:30 PM – 6:20 PM

Metapragmatics Without a Net

Keynote Address by Elizabeth Povinelli
Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology & Gender Studies, Columbia University


6:20 PM – 6:30 PM                  Response by Michael Silverstein

Anthropology, Linguistics, & Psychology,

University of Chicago


6:30 PM – 7:00 PM                  Discussion


7:00 PM                                   DINNER



TUESDAY, April 14

Speakers                                    McKenna Hall // Room 210 – Room 213


8:00 AM – 8:30 AM                  COFFEE


8:30 AM – 10:30 AM                Panel 4: Dialoging with Structuralism: Closure and Openness of Systematicity

Chair Susan Blum

Anthropology, University of Notre Dame


Job Searching in a Network of Stoppages
Ilana Gershon

Communication & Culture, Indiana University


From the Floating Signifier to the Remnant: Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Role in Giorgio Agamben’s Work
Victor Li

Comparative Literature, University of Toronto


Cosmic Realism
Kate Marshall

English, University of Notre Dame




10:30 AM – 11:00 AM              COFFEE BREAK


11:00 AM – 11:50 AM

The Impersonal is the Political: Aesthetic Autonomy and Political Economy
Keynote Address by Walter Benn Michaels
Professor of English, University of Illinois at Chicago


11:50 AM – 12:00 PM              Response by Sandra Gustafson

English & American Studies, University of Notre Dame


12:00 PM – 1:00 PM               Discussion & Final Roundtable

“Saussure’s Anticipation of Poststructuralism”

Lecture by Dr. Johannes Fehr, Titular Professor of the Theory of Language in the Philosophical Faculty, University of Zürich, and Director, Ludwig Fleck Centrum of the Collegium Helveticum.

April 16, 2014 at 4PM, Franke Institute for the Humanities, University of Chicago.

With an introduction by Haun Saussy, University Professor, Departments of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Committee on Social Thought. Response by Thomas Pavel, Gordon J. Laing Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and Committee on Social Thought.

Structuralism - Fehr

Structuralism’s Minuses, Structuralism Plus

The next symposium in this series will be held at the University of Chicago on March 5th. We are very pleased and honored that Jonathan Culler (Cornell University), Nicholas Cook (Cambridge University), and Danilyn Rutherford (University of California Santa Cruz) will be speaking about the critiques of structuralism. We are very grateful that Françoise Meltzer, Lawrence Zbikowski, and Andreas Glaeser (all from the University of Chicago) have agreed to respond to the speakers. The full program is appended below.

We’ve asked our speakers to consider how the emergence of structuralism and then of its critiques may continue to animate much theoretical work in the human arts and sciences today, both in the academy and beyond. Have critics successfully resolved structuralism’s minuses, as we might term them, to get to positions of structuralism plus? Or have such critiques in effect simply side-stepped the goals of structuralism’s structures and moved on to foci in (structures of?) power or notions of ontological indeterminacy lying behind or below structure? Has anyone successfully or productively theorized the possibility of freedom from structure itself in human and especially aesthetic endeavors?

We are looking forward to an enriching discussion.




(With many thanks to Eric Triantafillou for the design of the poster.)

Structuralism’s First Century 1916-2016: A Round-Table Prospectus


“Structuralism’s First Century, 1916-2016: A Round-Table Prospectus,” the first in a projected series of events, took place on May 21st, 2013. The round-table attracted a standing-room crowd at The University of Chicago’s Franke Institute, and was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Communication and Society. The lively panelists were Lenore Grenoble (Slavics and Linguistics), John D. Kelly (Anthropology), Thomas Pavel (Romance and Comparative Literature, Social Thought), Marshall Sahlins (Anthropology), Haun Saussy (Comparative Literature, East Asian, Social Thought). (Lawrence Zbikowski, Music, promised future participation.) Spanning a number of the humanities and social sciences, these speakers illustrated the living history of structuralism in the study of society, language, literature and the arts.

In opening statements, the panelists focused on structuralist ideas as intellectual forces. Grenoble spoke of the quiet assimilation of structural analysis into the discipline of Linguistics to the point of virtual invisibility. Kelly and Saussy each touched on the way structuralism became a solution to the problem of mere contingency in cultural forms. As Kelly termed it, structuralism offers one road out of the dilemma articulated long ago by Kant: whether it is reason or “the dismal reign of chance” that drives human history. Pavel interrogated the loss of aesthetics in the adoption of structuralism in the analysis of literary meaning. The subject of Sahlins’ presentation was Lévi-Strauss—the figure who provided a model for many such adaptations across disciplines. Sahlins argued for the continuing relevance of structural analysis for sociocultural anthropology. The stimulating presentations and the discussion that followed pointed up the multiple relations between teleologies of, in, and for structuralism, and the reflexive moment that structuralist thought in effect has created.