Mary Douglas: 1921–2007

18 May 2007

Professor Dame Mary Douglas was one of the most influential social anthropologists of the second half of the 20th century, and is credited with establishing anthropology as a discipline at UCL. She was well known for her writings on human culture and symbolism, developing a cultural theory of risk. In her groundbreaking book ‘Purity and Danger: an Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo’, she examined the topic of sacred contagion – how cultures define themselves through their rituals of purity.

Professor Douglas received her DBE in this year’s New Year Honours list, a distinction warmly welcomed by the UCL anthropology community. In April 2007, Professor Douglas gave a public lecture at UCL. ‘Seeing in black and white: the origins of sectarian violence and the problems of small groups’ was delivered to a riveted audience: a testimony to her lifelong energy and erudition. 

To read full obituaries from the ‘Times’ and the ‘Guardian’, use the links at the bottom of the article.

Image: Professor Mary Douglas, at a party held at UCL, in honour of her DBE


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