Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo

Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo

Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo

Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo

Synopsis

In Purity and Danger Mary Douglas identifies the concern for purity as a key theme at the heart of every society. In lively and lucid prose she explains its relevance for every reader by revealing its wide-ranging impact on our attitudes to society, values, cosmology and knowledge. The book has been hugely influential in many areas of debate - from religion to social theory. But perhaps its most important role is to offer each reader a new explanation of why people behave in the way they do. With a specially commissioned introduction by the author which assesses the continuing significance of the work thirty-five years on, this Routledge Classics edition will ensure that Purity and Danger continues to challenge and question well into the new millennium.

Excerpt

I well remember my nervousness when sending this book to a publisher, and how stunned with surprise when Routledge gave me a contract with a £100 advance. But when it was published in 1966 my anxieties were justified: it received some very generous reviews, but after two or three years it hadn’t sold more than about 200 copies altogether. Norman Franklin said comfortingly that it was not necessarily a flop: it might turn out to be what publishers call a ‘sleeper’, a book that comes out of obscurity after lying dormant for some time. He was right; it is still going strong, and I am grateful to the publishers for keeping it in print all this time with new editions and translations.

DIRT IS DANGEROUS

The book is a treatise on the idea of dirt and contagion. It started to come together in my head in the 1950s when I had caught one of the contagious diseases, measles, I think, and was laid up in bed for a week. When I recovered, my first writing obligation

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