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Douglas, Mary (1921–2007)

Mary Tew Douglas, a British anthropologist, is most famous for her work on ritual purity, bodily symbolism, and cultural perceptions of risk. Trained at Oxford under Evans-Pritchard, she began her career studying the Lele of the Congo. After numerous articles and two books on these and other central African peoples, she turned to more theoretical matters—notably, connections between how people order their conceptual worlds and how they order their social lives. She applied her insights broadly, arguing that culture and social structure must be seen as part of a single system, not as two unconnected parts of life.

Purity and Danger (1966) was Douglas's first book to attract attention from scholars of religion. There, she presented ritual purity and taboo as expressions of both mental ...

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