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Douglas, Mary Tew (1921–2007)


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


British social anthropologist. She is known for her studies of religion and symbolism, pollution and moral order, her ethnography of the Lele of the Kasai, and for G roup/grid analysis. She was one of the leaders of neostructuralism in British anthropology in the 1960s, along with Edmund Leach, Rodney Needham, and Victor Turner. This P aradigm meant a shift away from the previous focus on norms and actions to an interest in symbolic systems. Mary Douglas derived her interest in the sociology of religion from her education at the Sacred Heart Convent in Roehampton. She subsequently studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford, and then developed an interest in Africa and in anthropology during her job in the Colonial Office 1943–6. She took a BSc in anthropology in Oxford in 1948, where she studied with Evans-Pritchard. She did fieldwork in Zaire (then the Belgian Congo) 1949–50 and again in 1953, and received her PhD in 1951. Her dissertation, published as The Lele of the Kasai , has become a classic of ethnography. In the course of a distinguished academic career, she has authored many books and articles, and coauthored or edited others. She taught for many years at the University of London, retiring with a full professorship in 1978. In 1977 she moved to the United States, serving as resident scholar and director at the Russell Sage Foundation, then teaching at Northwestern ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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