Hendry Ch: 2
Anthropologists find out about a system of classification by looking at ideas which some
people find shocking and disgusting. These ideas are the root of prejudice and
discrimination. As well, people who engage in practices contradictory to one’s own may
seem barbaric and uncivilized.
These cherished ideas are usually challenged whenever we travel abroad.
Example: When a British resident travels to France, he finds the toilets not only to seem
dirty, but constructed in a fashion unpleasant to use. Also, the British might be surprised
to discover that their friends in France find a number of English habits disgusting too.
Example: Between India and Europe, there is a separation of the uses of the right and left
hands, for eating and cleaning the body respectively, make passing food with the left
hand seem quite disgusting.
Certain practices are forbidden in the law and custom of each society. Example: In many
countries, it is against the law to appear in public in the nude or else you will be arrested.
In Oxford, students have to wear gowns and black and white clothes. In some clubs and
restaurants, men can be turned away if they have no jacket and tie. In Islamic countries,
women cover themselves from head to foot, a custom causing concern to Europe. In most
societies, it would be unthinkable for a man to show up to work in a skirt, even in
Scotland; kilts are usually worn at weddings. It is ideas such as these, which may form
the basis of prejudice and suspicion when people from one culture visit another.
Pollution/purity: institutionalized ideas about dirt and cleanliness in any particular
society, especially where these have connotations with notions of spiritual power.
By studying the notions a people have about pollution (or dirt) and the things which they
regard as taboo (or forbidden) we can learn about the system of classification of that
Taboo: something prohibited, usually for reasons associated with a wider system of
classification, perhaps related to ideas of pollution, or with notions of the sacred in any
society. the word ‘Taboo’ was brought by Captain Cook
Sacred/profane: a variety of distinctions made between things, people and events that are
set apart (sacred) form eve