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Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (Routledge Classics)
Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (Routledge Classics)
by Professor Mary Douglas
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.49

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A seminal work in anthropological theory, 30 July 2009
Few anthropological works have had as profound an impact as Mary Douglas's Purity and Danger. In it she outlines an anthropological theory of purity and pollution that has become a central part of what is otherwise an often conflicted and vaguely-defined subject area. This is not to say Douglas's work has never been criticized, but that many of her ideas are now so deeply ingrained in anthropological thinking that they simply appear as a given to students learning them today, whereas they revolutionized the interpretation of so-called "primitive" thought.

A reader encountering Douglas's ideas for the first time may be surprised to find that "dirt" is not intrinsically dirty, but is, rather, "matter out of place". This concept epitomizes what we might call the "anthroplogical mindset": a close attention to cultural interpretations -- and the specificity thereof.

The book begins with a sketch of European historical materials whose relation to some of the other issues surveyed is not clearly elucidated. However, this minor writer's fault can be forgiven, and the reader is encouraged to focus on Douglas's comparative analysis of sources as varied as her fieldwork among the Lele, and her (now canonical) reading of the book of Leviticus.

Beyond her addition to the canon of anthropological theory, Douglas also deserves praise for her willingness to critique her own material. The preface she wrote for the Routledge Classics paperback includes a reconsideration of her work on Leviticus that entirely justifies publishing the new edition.


Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society (Ethnographic Studies in Subjectivity)
Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society (Ethnographic Studies in Subjectivity)
by Joel Robbins
Edition: Paperback
Price: 22.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, well-written, well-researched, 30 July 2009
This book on the rise, fall and rise again of evangelical Christianity among the Urapmin of PNG would make a valuable addition to any anthropology student's library. It is one of the most clearly-written works of contemporary anthropology I have read, yet it respects the complexity and nuances of the subject-matter. I found myself engrossed in Robbins's sympathetic accounts of individual and social histories, the interweaving of personal narratives with important cultural trends.

Robbins's varied use of native accounts, colonial records and anthropological theory make this a richly textured account with a sense of historical depth. His attempts to sketch out a theory of Christian conversion and revival invites us to engage with his ideas beyond his ethnographic setting, opening the field for further discussion.


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