The Way of the Masks
In The Way of the Masks, first published more than thirty years later, he returned to this material, seeking to unravel a persistent problem that he associated with a particular mask, the Swaihwe, which is found among certain tribes of coastal British Columbia. This book, now available for the first time in an English translation, is a vivid, audacious illustration of Levi-Strauss's provocative structural approach to tribal art and culture.
Bringing to bear on the Swaihwe masks his theory that mythical representations cannot be understood as isolated objects, Levi-Strausss began to look for links among them, as well as relationships between these and other types of masks and myths, treating them all as parts of a dialogue that has been going on for generations among neighboring tribes. The wider system that emerges form his investigation uncovers the association of the masks with Northwest coppers and with hereditary status and wealth, and takes the reader as far north as the Dene of Alaska, as far south as the Yurok of northern California, and as far away in time and space as medieval Europe. As one reader said of this book, "It will be controversial, as his work always is, and it will stimulate more scholarship on the Northwest Coast than any other single book that I can think of."