Taboo & Pollution


ANTHR 4478

4 credits

R 12:25-2:20

Instructor:  Magnus Fiskesjo

This course is an in-depth introduction to the study of taboo, dirt, and cleanliness. The core concern is the relation between taboo and subjectivity, the making of persons and communities. We'll examine a range of actual examples from around the world, including taboos around sexuality, hair, and blood; food taboos, and other taboos governing religious practices; disgust, fear, and avoidance; modern and contemporary conceptions of hygiene, filth, and waste treatment; as well as the ideas underlying racism and social purity, built on the logic of taboo. We'll survey and discuss a wealth of writings, including the latest attempts to re-think and understand the classic topic of taboo. This is mainly through anthropologists such as Valeri, Douglas, Steiner, and others, and through crucial contributions from psychology and literary studies, with Freud, Kristeva, and others. Students will engage in research and writing, including on their own personal experiences.

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