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A Very Personal Method
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A Very Personal Method
Anthropological Writings Drawn From Life


© 2013 | 328 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
The range of Mary Douglas's interests had few parallels amongst the leading social anthropologists of the 20th century.

Although inspired by the classics of the discipline of anthropology, her theories were idiosyncratic and her applications of them never predictable.

By bringing together writings in different genres that she composed over the entirety of her career, this volume demonstrates her distinctive style of thought and expression. The topics she addressed ranged freely between family and friends, the demands of domestic routine, her belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, and cultural similarities and differences on a global scale. In her method and style, as much as in her explicit arguments, Mary Douglas constantly invited her readers to reflect on the inextricable intertwining of the personal and the theoretical in her thought.

More than any previous collection of Mary Douglas's work, A Very Personal Method reveals a mind restlessly reworking her enduring preoccupations and finding echoes of them in the new concerns she continued to draw from life.

Mary Douglas was one of the most widely read social anthropologists of the 20th Century. She is celebrated both as a literary stylist and an anthropological thinker who challenged common presuppositions and understandings of religion, economy and society. As a cornerstone of modernism in social anthropology, and a precursor of 21st Century interdisciplinarity, her work remains highly influential both within and outside the social sciences.

Richard Fardon is Mary Douglas's Literary Executor and Head of the Doctoral School and Professor of West African Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, UK

 
PART ONE: FAMILIAR FEELINGS
 
A Feeling for Hierarchy
 
Hooked on Fishing - Gilbert Tew, 1884-1951
 
The Gender of the Trout
 
My Circus Fieldwork
 
PART TWO: THINKING ABOUT CATHOLICISM IN LELE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
 
The Lele of the Congo
 
The Problem of Evil among the Lele: Sorcery, Witch-Hunt and Christian Teaching in Africa
 
The Devil Vanishes
 
Other Beings, Post-Colonially Correct
 
The Cloud God and the Shadow Self
 
PART THREE: TABOO AND RITUAL
 
Taboo
 
The Contempt of Ritual
 
The Contempt of Ritual [Again]
 
PART FOUR: CONTEMPORARIES
 
On Franz Steiner: A Memoir
 
On E. E. Evans-Prichard: from the Tablet Notebook
 
On Lévi-Strauss - Wild Pansies: Speaking Tenderly of its Layered Puff Pastry Effect
 
Smothering the Differences: In a Savage Mind About Lévi-Strauss
 
On Clifford Geertz: The Self-Completing Animal
 
PART FIVE: INCLUSION AS CONCLUSION
 
Knowing the Code
 
A Course off the Menu
 
To Honour the Dead
 
The Oracles of Love - A Play for AKT
 
Sacraments and Society - An Anthropologist Asks What Women Could Be Doing in the Church
 
Can a Scientist Be Objective about Her Faith? In Conversation with Deborah Jones
 
EPILOGUE
 
Original minds: Mary Douglas in Conversation with Eleanor Wachtel
 
Granny
 
Endpiece: The Golden Fish (the Brothers Grimm)

This is a priceless addition to the oeuvre of one of Britain's best known anthropologists. Who would have imagined that a lifetime of writing between the lines could be brought together as something so uniquely powerful, wicked and charming as this book. Richard Fardon has found Mary Douglas's words in all kinds of places, in all states of preparedness, enrolling many audiences and sometimes none -- and from the informal to the outrageous, from feelings to convictions, from wit to sarcasm. Running like a commentary alongside her major publications, it is as much an illumination of her world as of herself.
Professor Marilyn Strathern
University of Cambridge


Mary Douglas gives unprecedented insights here into her formation, her reasons, her attachments and convictions; the material ranges widely, from some superb uncollected essays to unusually revealing interviews. The intellectual acerbity for which she was celebrated is undercut by the affections she shows, and her stringent endorsement of orderliness lightened by marvellous wit and empathy. The book is an exhilarating anthology, from a wise woman who has no peer, and whose thinking continues to resonate in the discipline of anthropology and far beyond.
Marina Warner
Professor, Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, University of Essex


Supervisors can inspire complex loyalties, but Richard Fardon has honoured Mary Douglas in ways few could expect, writing her Intellectual Biography (1999) and then, as her literary executor, editing two posthumous collections, one of which is A Very Personal Method...This book is an assemblage of articles published in unconventional places, lectures delivered to non-academic audiences, and material not intended for publication. Everything reveals an original thinker in the process of teasing out ideas, often by explaining them in detail to a lay audience...Undoubtedly specialists who have already engaged with her major works will find this selection of writings, untempered by the pressures of peer review, a fascinating insight to her way of thinking.  But merely interested people (the original audience) will also find much to enjoy in her elegant writing.

Pamela Shurmer-Smith
University of Portsmouth

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