Sunday, September 02, 2007

Goodbye to Mary Douglas

Dame Mary Douglas has joined Freddy Fender and Clifford Geertz in the great beyond. She passed away back in May, and I can't believe I didn't hear about it. I am guessing that other than Jennifer, few of our readers know Mary Douglas's work directly. We've all been touched by it, though. If you found Monty's analysis of the Anglo belief that "Mexicans are Dirty" compelling, or if you took the Director's suggestion that the sexual and scatological jokes of working class mexicano men express anxiety in the face of an encompassing, alien social order, you are in dialogue with the Dame. The AAA news seemed to take a long time to get Geertz's obituary out last year, and it has repeated this pattern with Douglas. At least Geertz got decent copy-editing. In the obit for Douglas, arguably the most influential British anthropologist of the late Twentieth Century, we get this howler.
When her mother died at the age of 12, she was sent to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in South London where she found security in the hierarchical and relatively secluded world of the boarding school and the Catholic faith.
So was Douglas born to a woman younger than twelve whose corpse found solace in religion, or did somebody have a problem with their antecedents here? Come on, AAA, you can do better than that! All this is no big deal for the Dame, of course. Her body is in Dirt. May she rest in System. And for the rest of us, let's hope Heaven has more grid than group.


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