Taboos

taboo

taboo or tabu (both: tăbōō´, tə–), prohibition of an act or the use of an object or word under pain of punishment. Originally a Polynesian word, taboo can apply to the sacred or consecrated or to the dangerous, unclean, and forbidden. A taboo can be placed on an object, person, place, or word that is believed to have inherent power above the ordinary. This power, called mana, can only be approached by special priests. To give distinction to special moments in the life cycle, taboos are often declared at births, deaths, initiations, and marriages. Taboos are commonly placed on a clan's ancestral guardian, called the totem. The breaking of a taboo usually requires extermination of the offender or some sort of ceremonial purification in order to remove the taint from the community. Often the mana of a taboo is so great that the offender will suffer punishment, even death, merely through fear of its powers.

See J. G. Frazer, Taboo and the Perils of the Soul (3d ed. 1955); S. Freud, Totem and Taboo (1960, orig. 1918); M. Douglas, Purity and Danger (1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Taboo Topics
Norman L. Farberow.
Atherton, 1963
FREE! Totem and Taboo: Resemblances between the Psychic Lives of Savages and Neurotics
Sigmund Freud.
Moffat, Yard, 1918
The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion
James George Frazer; Robert Fraser.
Oxford University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Taboos"
Transgression
Chris Jenks.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "Freud and Taboo" begins on p. 45
Taboos in German Literature
David Jackson.
Berghahn Books, 1996
Man, Morals and Society: A Psycho-Analytical Study
J. C. Flugel.
International Universities Press, 1945
Librarian’s tip: Chap. X "Taboo and Its Equivalents"
Taboo, Magic, Spirits: A Study of Primitive Elements in Roman Religion
Eli Edward Burriss.
Macmillan, 1931
The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness
B. Alan Wallace.
Oxford University Press, 2000
A Tear Is An Intellectual Thing: The Meanings of Emotion
Jerome Neu.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Taboos and Reasons" begins on p. 169
Disrespecting the Dead and the Living: Iban Ancestor Worship and the Violation of Mourning Taboos
Wadley, Reed L.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 5, No. 4, December 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Reintroducing Taboo Topics: Antecedents and Consequences of Putting Topics Back on the Table
Roloff, Michael E.; Johnson, Danette Ifert.
Communication Studies, Vol. 52, No. 1, Spring 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo
Mary Douglas.
Routledge, 2002
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator