British feminist and psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell talks to Cogito about her role in the British New Left in the 1960s. Mitchell was at the centre of the movement: as editorial board member of the New Left Review, as participant in Third World and anti-psychiatry movements, and as co-organizer of grassroots initiatives, including the “Anti-University”, founded on the steps of Shoreditch Church in East London. Here, Mitchell outlines her intellectual trajectory from her early Marxism, to feminism of the mid-1960s, and to psychoanalysis in the 1970s.
The Cambridge anthropologist argues that in seeking to expose the “structures of the mind”, Levi-Strauss and the Structuralists projected the categorized worldview of literate cultures onto simpler societies. In analysing oral cultures, a more flexible approach must be employed to take in the inconsistencies in myth-making, something made apparent by modern recording technology in the 1960s. In the second half of the interview, Goody discusses language development and the pitfalls of the genetic approach; the processes of “naming” and “discovering” in relation to western ideological concepts such as “freedom” and “slavery”; and the reception of western religion in non-western and formerly colonized cultures.