Mary Douglas is an outstanding example of an evaluative thinker at work. In Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, she delves in great detail into existing arguments that portray traditional societies as “evolving” from “savage” beliefs in magic, to religion, to modern science, then explains why she believes those arguments are wrong. She also adeptly chaperones readers through a vast amount of data, from firsthand research in the Congo to close readings of the Old Testament, and analyzes it in depth to provide evidence that traditional and Western religions have more in common than the first comparative religion scholars and early anthropologists thought.
First evaluating her scholarly predecessors by marshalling their arguments, Douglas identifies their main weakness: that they dismiss traditional societies and their religions by identifying their practices as “magic,” thereby creating a chasm between savages who believe in magic and sophisticates who practice religion.
Table of Contents
Ways in to the Text
Who Was Mary Douglas?
What Does Purity and Danger Say?
Why Does Purity and Danger Matter?
Section 1: Influences
Module 1: The Author and the historical Context
Module 2: Academic Context
Module 3: The Problem
Module 4: The Author's Contribution
Section 2: Ideas
Module 5: Main Ideas
Module 6: Secondary Ideas
Module 7: Achievement
Module 8: Place in the Author's Work
Section 3: Impact
Module 9: The First Responses
Module 10: The Evolving Debate
Module 11: Impact and Influence Today
Module 12: Where Next?
Glossary of Terms
People Mentioned in the Text
Pádraig Belton undertook his doctoral research in politics and international relations at the University of Oxford. A prolific financia, business and political journalist, his work has appeared in publications including the Irish Times, the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, the Irish Independent, the Atlantic, the New Statesman, Prospect, the Times Literary Supplement, and Foreign Policy.