Conference: The Effectiveness of Symbols
Summary: Part 2: Henrietta Moore - Exclusion, Unsustainability and the Determinations of the SymbolicThis paper discusses the difficulties of adhering to Lévi-Strauss’s view of the symbolic and his account of the effectiveness of symbols. It uses material from Papua New Guinea and China to explore the relationship between desire and ethics as a means of exploring some contemporary problems in articulating the relationship between the psyche and the social.Henrietta Moore is the founding Director of the new Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London where she also holds the Chair of Philosophy, Culture and Design. She is an internationally renowned social anthropologist who has written extensively on the interrelation between material and symbolic gender systems, embodiment and subjectivity. She is the author of several books, including The Subject of Anthropology (2007), a cutting-edge analysis of gendered subjectivity and a ground-breaking contribution to the debates between anthropology and psychoanalysis.Why do symbols have such a powerful influence on human beings?This question lies at the heart of both psychoanalysis and anthropology. In his seminal paper ‘The Effectiveness of Symbols’, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss compared the healing practices of shamans and psychoanalysts in terms of the structuring effects of symbol and language on the body.Lévi-Strauss opened up new ways of thinking about the symbolic dimension of human life, offering a subtle reformulation of the Freudian unconscious and putting forward a theory of symbolic function that continues to resonate within both fields.This conference brings together eminent speakers from the fields of psychoanalysis and anthropology to reflect on Lévi-Strauss’ paper and its influence, and to discuss symbolic effectiveness in their own research and practice.