- I don't want to seem niggarly about Mary Douglas. She is one of the finest
anthropologists of our times. Her work on the Lele is outstanding. Her more
theoretical work, Purity and Danger, offers powerful explanations for
understanding the concept of taboo; and it makes sense of aspects of the
Hebrew scriptures better than any study that I know.
However, though there are superb elements in Natural Symbols, there is
wrongheadeness too. You have only to look at her chapter on the Bog Irish (I
happen to be one). It would get you nowhere in trying to understand the
Celtic Tiger.Too many anthropologist have had difficulty in explaining
change. One has only to remember Radcliffe-Brown's 'structure and function'
As for F.C.Senn: All models are inadequate but some are more inadequate than
others. 'Group' and 'grid' is useful to begin with but not to end with.
Incidentally all ideas are models but at their best they have to remain
'open' (to use the terminology of C.S. Peirce). Anyhow, and finally, there
is Voltaire: All generalisations, including this one, are false.
Anyhow I was glad to be directed to that interview with Professor Douglas.
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