Collapse Volume VII, 479–498


The Metaphysics of Predation


In the two watershed works of 1962, Totemism Today and The Savage Mind, where the ‘prestructuralism’ of Elementary Structures… begins to give way to the ‘poststructuralism’ of Mythologiques, Lévi-Strauss establishes a paradigmatic contrast between ‘totemism’ and ‘sacrifice’ which has come to assume, for me, a status one could describe as properly mythic, allowing me to formulate more distinctly what I had confusedly perceived as being the limits of structural anthropology. Limits in the geometrical sense of the term – the perimeter of jurisdiction of the Lévi-Straussian method – as well as in the mathematico-dynamic sense – the attractor towards which certain virtualities of this method tend. This contrast has been important, in particular, for a rereading of Amazonian ethnography in the light of research carried out among the Araweté,a Tupi-speaking people of the east Amazon. It has played a pivotal role in my enterprise of rethinking the meaning of warfare cannibalism and of shamanism, two central (or rather ‘de-central’) cosmopolitical institutions of the Tupi and other Amerindian societies…