Purity and Danger (Routledge Classics) Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415289955
ISBN-10: 0415289955
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Editorial Reviews

Review

`Mrs Douglas writes gracefully, lucidly and polemically. She continually makes points which illuminate matters in the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of science and help to show the rest of us just why and how anthropology has become a fundament

About the Author

Mary Douglas is an internationally recognized anthropologist whose work is influencing scholars of religion in both her native England and in the U.S.A. She is afflilated with Northwestern University.

Product Details

  • File Size: 302 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: A Butterworth-Heinemann Title; 1 edition (December 7, 2002)
  • Publication Date: December 7, 2002
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FA5ZBO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,111,719 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback
All cultures have definite ideas about what is clean and what is dirty. Drawing from previous hallmark works on how cultures make classifications (Levi-Strauss's The Raw and the Cooked, etc.), Douglas makes clear and concise arguments about the use of ritual in separating that which is considered pure from what's considered unclean. The convincing argument she makes is that such rituals and clearly defined boundaries of purity reinforce a society's common definitions, increasing its unity and therefore its ability to work together to succeed. Additionally, Douglas alludes to Malinowski's anxiety-reduction theories of totems to theorize that clear definitions of right and wrong and of clean and unclean reduce the stress in a given society, helping everyone to know who they are and what is expected of them. In fact, she feels, a lack of such distinctions can be fatal to the integrity of a group. If everyone went on their own deciding what was good or bad, there would be chaos - the danger alluded to in the title.
A highlight of the book is the chapter titled "Abominations of Leviticus", in which she interprets the Jewish divisions between kosher and graev (no pork, no mixing of milk and meat, etc) in a cultural context. Here she shows that the Levites divided "pure" animals (deer, cattle, sheep, goats, etc) from those considered "mixed" (pig, rabbit, woodchuck), or having an undesireable combination of traits rather than just being dirty in aspect, as is commonly believed.
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Format: Paperback
Why was one locust cleaner than the other? Man, I had no idea either till I picked up this book. In fact, I had no idea that Jewish dietary laws made any distinctions at all on the locust front. (I mean, as far as I'm concerned, you could leave the locusts off the menu altogether and it's a fair bet I wouldn't even notice.) Mary Douglas, extensively supported by a gaggle of other similarly academically endowed individuals in quote form, however, delves right into the whole locust conundrum and she does it in a truly fascinating manner. What begins as a graceful though predictable swan dive assessment of profanity as disruption of cultural order jack knifes thrillingly there in the middle to talk about physical creatures as metaphoric representations of religious and cultural values. The book starts out talking about dirt and ends up in a fascinating examination of how we as humans, both "primative" and "civilized", twist our concrete world to become metaphor for psychological and spiritual experience Cool, huh. Also, as an added treat, Douglas spends A LOT of time talking about the South American Lele cult of the pangolin. (For laypeople, that's that funny armadillo/anteater thing that looks quite alot like a pinecone.) Douglas takes some fairly weighty theories of cultural anthropology and turns them into an entertaining and infinitely readable piece. A nice trick. Oh, and did I mention the anteater? What's not to love?
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Format: Paperback
Douglas's view of ritual across human cultures paints an accurate and thought-provoking picture. Her analysis of the cause and effect of ritual will satisfy not only the scholar, but also the general reader. Of particular interest is the section on Moses and the Torah.
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Format: Paperback
"Purity and Danger" is one of the best anthropology books...PERIOD. You will never look at taboos/pollution/dirt the same way again, after you read this book. Well, let me rephrase that: if this book doesn't give you a new insight into these matters, it is because you have already been exposed to Douglas's ideas and were not aware of it. I think that this book is essential for anyone in the social sciences. It is a great read, and is very powerful. Social science at its best.
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