Disgusting, Forbidden and Unthinkable

  • Joy Hendry


One of the ways in which anthropologists find out about a system of classification is by looking at ideas which are strongly held by the people concerned. These are likely to be ideas learnt early in life, views which are difficult to dislodge even when one becomes aware of the fact that they are culturally relative. They include ideas which would provoke expressions of shock and disgust should they be contravened, ideas which are at the root of prejudice and racial discrimination, for people who engage in practices contradictory to one’s own seem barbaric and uncivilized.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Douglas, Mary (1966) Purity and Danger (Harmondsworth: Penguin).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Halverson, J. (1976) ‘Animal Categories and Terms of Abuse’,Man, 11: 505–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Hendry, Joy (1984) ‘Shoes, the early learning of an important distinction in Japanese society’, in G. Daniels (ed.), Europe Interprets Japan (Tenterden: Paul Norbury).Google Scholar
  4. Leach, Edmund (1966) ‘Animal Categories and Verbal Abuse’, in Eric H. Lenneberg (ed.),New Directions for the Study of Language (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press).Google Scholar
  5. MacClancy, Jeremy (1992) Consuming Culture: Why You Eat What You Eat (New York: Henry Holt).Google Scholar
  6. Martin, Diana (1994) ‘Pregnancy and Childbirth among the Chinese of Hong Kong’, a thesis submitted for the degree o f Doctor of Philosophy in the University of Oxford.Google Scholar
  7. Okely, Judith (1983) The Traveller Gypsies (Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Shore, Bradd (1989) ‘Mana and Tapu’, in Alan Howard and Robert Borofsy (eds),Developments of Polynesian Ethnology (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press).Google Scholar
  9. Steiner, Franz (1956) Taboo (Harmondsworth: Penguin).Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Dumont, Louis (1980) Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and its Implications (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press).Google Scholar
  2. Quigley, Declan (1993) The Interpretation of Caste (Oxford: Clarendon).Google Scholar
  3. Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (1952) ‘Taboo’, ch. in Structure and Function in Primitive Society (London: Cohen & West).Google Scholar


  1. Altaf, Fatima, The One Who Did Not Ask (trans. from Urdu by Rukhsana Ahmad (London: Heinemann, 1993), tells poignantly of the problems experienced by the daughter of a well-to-do Indian family when she breaks some of the taboos of her high-class upbringing.Google Scholar
  2. Scott, Paul, The Jewel in the Crown (London: Mandarin, 1996) is the first of a series of four novels entitled ‘The Raj Quartet’ which depict, among other things, reactions to the breaking of unwritten taboos in the life of British India.Google Scholar


  1. Caste at Birth (Mira Hamermesh, 1990) a Sered film, explores the complexities of the caste system in the Indian sub-continent. It illustrates in particular taboos surrounding the ‘untouchables’.Google Scholar
  2. The Lau of Malaita (Leslie Woodhead and Pierre Maranda, 1987), a film in the Granada ‘Disappearing World’ series, provides information about taboos among a group of Solomon Islanders and tells of how their long-standing ‘Custom’ is being defended (or otherwise) against Christian missionaries in the area.Google Scholar
  3. Some Women of Marrakesh (Melissa Llewelyn-Davies, 1977), another ‘Disappearing World’ film, penetrates the enclosed world of female society in the male-orientated Muslim state of Morocco.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Joy Hendry 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joy Hendry

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations