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How to be Green

Mary Douglas, 13 September 1990

A Green Manifesto for the 1990s 
by Penny Kemp and Derek Wall.
Penguin, 212 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 14 013272 4
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Social Philosophy and Ecological Scarcity 
by Keekok Lee.
Routledge, 425 pp., £40, September 1989, 0 415 03220 2
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Mother Country 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Faber, 261 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15453 0
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Blueprint for a Green Economy 
by David Pearce, Anil Markandya and Edward Barbier.
Earthscan, 192 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 1 85383 066 6
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The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon 
by Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 366 pp., £16.95, November 1989, 0 86091 261 2
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Thinking Green: An Anthology of Essential Ecological Writing 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Barrie and Jenkins, 250 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 7126 3489 4
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... If the crisis for the environment were a purely physical problem it could be resolved by protective legislation. Because markets are arraigned as responsible for the disastrous state of the environment, profound paradoxes arise for Western political thought. Much Green writing implies that in addition to a change of heart, the remedy would require strong political and economic controls ...

I thirst! Water, I beseech thee

Mary Douglas: Sadducees v. Pharisees, 23 June 2005

How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualisation of Ancient Israel 
by William Schniedewind.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 521 82946 1
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... The title puts it fairly. Sacred books don’t spring out of thin air; there was a Bible before ever its stories and laws were fixed in writing. How the Bible Became a Book starts with the history of writing and its impact on Judaism, but as it goes along, fascinating comparisons with other histories of ‘textualisation’ crop up, together with a wide range of similar disputes about the sources of religious authority ...

A Gentle Deconstruction

Mary Douglas, 4 May 1989

The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia 
by Marilyn Strathern.
California, 422 pp., $40, December 1988, 0 520 06423 2
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... What has been happening in anthropology since Margaret Mead died?’ This book would have helped me to answer that casual question. A study of Melanesian culture, it does refer to Mead’s field reports from New Guinea and to her interest in adolescent and sexual behaviour: it also surveys the whole record of anthropological reporting in the region ...

Faith, Hope and Probability

Mary Douglas, 23 May 1991

The Taming of Chance 
by Ian Hacking.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £27.50, November 1990, 0 521 38014 6
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... The author of The Emergence of Probability (1975) has written another formidable book on the history of probability theory. The first described the development in the 17th and 18th centuries of a new way of legitimating knowledge: a mathematical theory of predictability under uncertainty based on observed frequencies of numbers on thrown dice. From its origins in gambling, probability theory began to meet the demand for a reliable form of authority that would release the Renaissance and the Age of Reason from religious claims to control knowledge ...

Cairo Essays

Edmund Leach, 4 December 1980

by Mary Douglas.
Fontana, 140 pp., £1.50, March 1980, 0 00 634006 7
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... University of Oxford from 1946-1970, gain the crown? But if E-P be held to deserve apotheosis then Mary Douglas seems, on the face of it, a very appropriate hagiographer, for she is a noted anthropologist in her own right, was once a pupil of E-P, and, like E-P himself in his later years, is an exceptionally devoted member of the Roman Catholic ...


Victor Mallet, 8 December 1988

Constructive Drinking: Perspectives on Drink from Anthropology 
edited by Mary Douglas.
Cambridge, 291 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 521 33504 3
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For Prayer and Profit: The Ritual, Economic and Social Importance of Beer in Gwembe District, Zambia, 1950-1982 
by Elizabeth Colson and Thayer Scudder.
Stanford, 147 pp., $32.50, August 1988, 0 8047 1444 4
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... own right. But most intriguing – and controversial – of all are the introductory chapters by Mary Douglas and Dwight Heath. They are anxious to challenge Western assumptions that the drinking of alcohol should be treated primarily as a problem. They point out that in many societies, even where drunkenness is frequent and highly esteemed, ‘problem ...

Because It’s Ugly

Jonathan Rosen: Double-Crested Cormorants, 9 October 2014

The Double-Crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariah 
by Linda Wires.
Yale, 349 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 0 300 18711 3
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... the biblical notion of uncleanness, though not for the reason she gives. In Purity and Danger, Mary Douglas identifies ‘unclean’ creatures as those that inhabit multiple realms and live between categories. That’s the source of their ‘danger’. The cormorant – which nests on the ground as well as in trees, and which flies, dives, floats and ...

Daughters, Dress Shirts, Spotted Dick

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 April 1980

... and beavers. It is obsessed with classification. He barely exaggerates. Its history, as Douglas and Isherwood proudly recall,* has been one of ‘continuous disengagement’ from the ‘intrusive assumptions of common sense’. It is therefore scarcely surprising that perhaps the most insistent claim throughout this history, and at no time more ...
Her Share of the Blessings 
by Ross Kraemer.
Oxford, 286 pp., £19.50, September 1992, 0 19 506686 3
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... different religious movements. Kraemer opts, in an unnervingly wholehearted way, for a version of Mary Douglas’s old system of social and religious classification: ‘grid and group’. Mary Douglas mapped all the forms of social organisation onto two axes. The first, the ‘grid’ axis, represented the degree ...
The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age 
by Simon Schama.
Collins, 698 pp., £19.95, September 1987, 9780002178013
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... Schama has drawn some of his inspiration from social anthropologists (from Emile Durkheim to Mary Douglas), some from Freud, and some from the history of mentalities – the Dutch word is mentaliteitsgeschiedenis – as currently practised in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Schama focuses neither on events nor on institutions but on a variety ...

Give her a snake

Mary Beard, 22 March 1990

Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions 
by Lucy Hughes-Hallett.
Bloomsbury, 338 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 7475 0093 2
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... to the work of an ill-assorted range of academic luminaries: from Lacan to Ronald Syme; from Mary Douglas to Nietzsche. It is not that Douglas’s views on the Abominations of Leviticus and on the symbolic role of ‘the anomalous’ are no longer interesting. But, at least in the page-long summary by ...


Robert Alter: Reading Leviticus anthropologically, 3 March 2005

Jacob’s Tears: The Priestly Work of Reconciliation 
by Mary Douglas.
Oxford, 211 pp., £45, November 2004, 0 19 926523 2
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... Ever since Mary Douglas’s anthropological foray into the laws of impurity in Leviticus in Purity and Danger (1966), her work on the Bible has been constantly stimulating and, at its best, deeply instructive. Over the past fifteen years she has devoted most of her still formidable energies to biblical topics, even acquiring a degree of competence in biblical Hebrew ...

Spitting, Sneezing, Smearing

Marjorie Garber: Messy Business, 10 August 2000

Cooking with Mud: The Idea of Mess in 19th-Century Art and Fiction 
by David Trotter.
Oxford, 340 pp., £35, February 2000, 0 19 818503 0
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... like attics, basements and sheds. ‘Dirt is matter out of place’ is the celebrated dictum of Mary Douglas. A teenager’s clothing scattered about the room; a pair of shoes on the dining-room table. And what we regard as dirt someone else may prize; dirt is not natural but cultural. The move from the material to the metaphorical and cultural was ...


Ian Hacking, 18 December 1986

How institutions think 
by Mary Douglas.
Syracuse, 146 pp., $19.95, July 1986, 0 8156 2369 0
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... and the Social Order’. The lectures were weighty, I think, but ponderous they were not. Douglas dances over an amazing array of topics. The effect is some sort of intellectual hopscotch; the reader hops from square to square, sideways, diagonally, sometimes landing with feet in different squares. The squares have amazing titles like ‘Institutions ...

Djojo on the Corner

Benedict Anderson, 24 August 1995

After the Fact: Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist 
by Clifford Geertz.
Harvard, 198 pp., £17.95, April 1995, 0 674 00871 5
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... one might also say pre-Post-Modern – masters: Jack Goody (1919), Victor Turner (1920), Mary Douglas (1921), and Marshall Sahlins (1930). Right in the middle came Clifford Geertz, who was born in San Francisco in 1926. In the quarter-century between 1960, when he published his masterly The Religion of Java, and the middle Eighties, he ...

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