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Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (Routledge Classics)
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Top Customer Reviews
Having said that, there are four or five extremely interesting observations herein that will help explain, or at least clarify, some puzzling issues: why gangs "jump" initiates, why Muslims do not permit nonbelievers to enter Mecca, why frats "haze" their new recruits, etc., although you pretty much have to fill in those blanks for yourself: Ms. Douglas does not explicitly extend her theories to cover such aspects of modern society. I used to think the book was deep; now, I think (in general) that she doesn't go far enough with her theories, instead stopping short just when things are getting interesting.
Another unfortunate aspect of this book is that the author felt it necessary, in the first few chapters, to refute previous, erroneous ideas about filth and pollution. Unfortunately, many of the theories she refers to are complicated and difficult to follow, at least before you read the rest of the book. In other words, I think she should have left that section for last, instead just launching into her conclusions directly.
The core of her methodological ingenuity (instead of merely choosing an interesting topic) lies in her comparative method: “In the first place we shall not expect to understand religion if we confine ourselves to considering belief in spiritual beings, however the formula may be refined… Rather than stopping to chop definitions, we should try to compare peoples’ views about man’s destiny and place in the universe. In the second place we shall not expect to understand other people’s ideas of contagion, sacred or secular, until we have confronted our own.”(35, my italic) By looking into the everyday (her first method of comparison), her meditation walks us from the mundane to the sacred and demonstrates how religion/cosmology and social order emerge from daily life and how such perceived order in turn governs one’s lived experience.Read more ›
This book manages to be accessible for the non-anthropologist or historian of religion, yet too densely argued and scattered for the novice. How can it be both? Douglas writes in a no-nonsense style that I enjoyed, when I could grasp her points. Too often, like many critics, she's engaged more in a grudge match with previous academics and uses a considerable amount of this text settling scores, some from the time of "The Golden Bough" and the formative years of her discipline. While she makes her own argument known, the details of tribes, the skipping about that many of the chapters engage in through time and culture make her intricately developed thesis appear probably more fractured and piecemeal than she intended.
The centerpiece, therefore, stands out as the lasting reason for which this earlier book is known, and you can see from her later work that she returned to Leviticus with gusto. "The Abominations of Leviticus" pioneered a cultural approach to the laws not as health codes -- although she notes that ethical control, hygiene and dietary concerns may well be by-products of these Mosaic restrictions and allowances -- but as aesthetic counterparts drawn from the natural world to the cohesion that the military camp and the Hebrew tribes demanded for survival and identity. She reads the proscriptions and prescriptions as conceptual structures of what fit the divinely mandated order that the Hebrews strove to impose-- following God's will as they understood it-- on their natural surroundings.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
She has a difficult reading style to get into, but once you've been reading it for a while, it is really good and informative too.Published 15 months ago by Austin L. Bugai Edwards
I have read all of Mary Douglas' books. Her perspective is not like anyone else, and at the same time she is more insightful than 10 other writers on the same subject combined. Read morePublished on January 6, 2014 by John M. Beasley
I chose this book because I had questions regarding some of our religious traditions and the history behind them. I found this book to very helpful for my needs. Read morePublished on April 1, 2013 by Robert
The title is a bit of a misnomer, as this book tackles much more extensive subjects than simple 'taboos'. Read morePublished on July 25, 2011 by kaioatey
I was assigned this book for a college course and really didn't care for it. This book is relatively old now and that is reflected in the writing style. Read morePublished on March 23, 2011 by Erin
I needed this book at the last minute for one of my college courses. I got it very quickly, within the earlier part of my estimated delivery window. The product came as described.Published on December 21, 2010 by Rebekah
Even during the busy holiday season, the book arrived as promised and ON TIME! Great job!Published on December 30, 2009 by Bruce A. Steinway
This is one of the most famous and still relevant works about what are behind any given cultures concepts on cleanliness and impurity. Read morePublished on January 28, 2008 by Amazon Customer