Dame Mary Douglas (1921-2007)
Mary Douglas, British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism. Her area is social anthropology, where she is considered a follower of Durkheim, with a strong interest in comparative religion. She was born as Margaret Mary Tew in San Remo, Italy; her parents were in the British colonial service. She had a Roman Catholic education at the Sacred Heart Convent in Roehampton. She went on to study at the University of Oxford from 1939 to 1943; there she was influenced by E.E. Evans-Pritchard. She worked in the British Colonial Office until 1947, when she returned to Oxford to take up graduate study she had left. She studied with M. N. Srinivas as well as Evans-Pritchard. In 1949 she did field work with the Lele people in what was then the Belgian Congo; this took her to village life in the region between the Kasai River and the Loange River, where the Lele lived on the edge of the previous Kuba kingdom. Mary Douglas is best known for her interpretation of the book of Leviticus, and for her role in creating the Cultural Theory of risk.In Purity and Danger, Douglas first proposed that the kosher laws were not, as many believed, either primitive health regulations or randomly chosen as tests of Jews’ commitment to God. Instead, Douglas argued that the laws were about symbolic boundary-maintenance. Prohibited foods were those which did not seem to fall neatly into any category. For example, pigs’ place in the natural order was ambiguous because they shared the cloven hoof of the ungulates, but did not chew cud. Douglas claims that rituals of purity that focus on sexuality are meant to mark the boundaries of the human body, in the same way by which the boundaries of society are marked. She begins “Purity and Danger” by stating what she considers obvious, that “ambiguous things can seem very threatening” (xi) and claims that “taboo is a spontaneous device for protecting the distinctive categories of the universe… taboo confronts the ambiguous and shunts it into the category of the sacred”. Douglas’ observations about the differences in traditional African societies’ views of risks such as sorcery led her to formulate a functionalist theory of how social structures generate supportive worldviews. She developed this more fully into the Cultural Theory of risk in Risk and Culture, written with political scientist Aaron Wildavsky. While the Cultural Theory of risk has not been hugely important within anthropology, it has made an impact on the inter-disciplinary field of risk perception.
Victor Turner (1920-1983)
Victor Witter Turner was born on 28 May 1920 in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of Captain Norman Turner, an electronics engineer, and Violet Witter, founding member and actress of the Scottish National Theater. At the age of 11, Turner left Scotland and went with his divorced mother to live with his maternal grandparents in Bournemouth, England. After attending Bournemouth Grammar School, he studied English language and literature at University College of London (1938-41). During World War II, Turner, a pacifist and objector to military service, became a non-combatant bomb disposal soldier in Britain. In 1943 he married Edith Davis who remained his wife and collaborator throughout his life. After the war the Turners and their two sons lived in a gypsy caravan near Rugby Town, England, a proper home being unobtainable due to German bombing. In the public library there, Turner came across Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead and The Andaman Islanders by A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. From these books Turner discovered that tribal life was even more down-to-earth than that of the British soldier which he had experienced during the war. He decided to study anthropology at University College of London, where he attended the seminars and received his B.A. with honors in 1949. Max Gluckman, the exiled South-African anthropologist and spiritual leader of the Manchester School, then offered Turner a grant from the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute to carry out fieldwork in an African tribe. Turner accepted and was assigned to the Mambwe tribe. However, he never reached the Mambwe homeland; during his stay at the Institute in Lusaka he received a telegram from Gluckman: “Suggest you change to Ndembu tribe Northwestern Province much malaria yellow fever plenty of ritual” (E. Turner 1985:2). In 1950 the Turners moved to the Mukanza village in the Mwinilunga district of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Here Victor Turner started his fieldwork among the Ndembu.
Clifford Geertz (1926 – 2006)
Clifford James Geertz (August 23, 1926, San Francisco – October 30, 2006, Philadelphia) was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered “for three decades…the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States.” He served until his death as professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Clifford James Geertz was born in San Francisco, California on August 23, 1926. After service in the U.S. Navy in World War II (1943–45), Geertz received his B.A. in philosophy from Antioch College in 1950, and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1956, where he studied social anthropology in the Department of Social Relations. He taught or held fellowships at a number of schools before joining the anthropology staff of the University of Chicago (1960–70). He then became professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1970 to 2000, then emeritus professor. Geertz received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from some fifteen colleges and universities, including Harvard University, the University of Chicago and the University of Cambridge. He was married first to the anthropologist Hildred Geertz. After their divorce he married Karen Blu, also an anthropologist. Clifford Geertz died of complications following heart surgery on October 30, 2006 Please keep in mind of how these three correlate with one another, we will test your knowledge of how to use their theory in an everyday setting.