Mary Douglas: An Intellectual Biography by Richard Fardon

By Richard Fardon

This can be the 1st complete size account of the lifestyles and ideas of Mary Douglas, the British social anthropologist whose courses span the second one 1/2 the 20 th century.Richard Fardon covers Douglas' relatives history, and the pervasive impression of her catholic religion on her writings prior to delivering an research of 2 of her so much influential works; Purity and hazard (1966) and common Symbols (1970). the ultimate part offers with Douglas' extra arguable writings within the fields of economics, intake, faith and hazard research in modern societies. all through, Fardon highlights the centrality of Douglas' function within the background of anthropology and the discipline's fight to accomplish relevance to modern, western societies.

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In her recollections, Mary Douglas credits her interest in social policy with a decision to study sociology at the London School of Economics, and then, persuaded by the Sisters that this step was too radical, to study the PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) tripos at Oxford. 6 She 21 BEGINNINGS: 1920S- 1950S left the Sacred Heart Convent School in 1938 and, on the suggestion of her godmother, spent six months in Paris. 7 To pass her Oxford entrance examinations, Mary returned to England and spent some months at a ‘crammer’ in the Cotswolds.

Besides the morning and evening devotions and the thrice-recurring Angelus, every lesson began with an invocation to the Holy Ghost and ended with a recommendation to Our Lady. Before supper, the whole school assembled to recite five decades of the rosary, and there was usually a novena in preparation for an important feast or a special intention to add some extra petitions to the list. The day ended with prayers in the chapel, and an elaborate 18 ‘ M E M O R I E S O F A C AT H O I C G I R L H O O D ’ examination of conscience under the heading of sins against God, against one’s neighbour and against oneself…On Saturdays every child in the school went to confession and, in the evening, after ‘Exemptions’, there were special devotions in the vestibule of Our Lady of Good Success…On Sundays all the children heard two masses and a sermon in the morning and went to Benediction in the afternoon.

I failed the test, but the experience started me worrying about whether facts can exist without theory. (Douglas 1995c: 262) Study of the Catholic social encyclicals would have suggested to her that theoretical weaving was consequential for questions of social action and collective morality in a way that spinning was not. Relative to the standards of its time, social anthropology of the 1940s had an egalitarian and humanly inclusive view of the world. Perhaps such an impulse might on occasions amount to nothing more specific than the acceptance of common human worth, and therefore of uniform human mental processes.

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