The Preface to the Hebrew Translation of Purity and Danger

Albert I. Baumgarten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purity and Danger, published in 1966, remains Dame Mary Douglas's most famous book and “The Abominations of Leviticus” its most widely read chapter. In 2005, only two years before her death and in preparation for the Hebrew translation of Purity and Danger, which appeared in 2010, Douglas wrote a preface for that publication. With the likely interests of the Hebrew reader in mind, the preface expresses Douglas's final reflections on the history of her engagement with “The Abominations of Leviticus.” It includes a restatement of her conclusions in light of Valerio Valeri's work, in which she found the preferred approach to the questions she had asked over the years. This article presents Douglas's preface after setting it in the context of her contributions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-44
Number of pages15
JournalReligion and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article had its genesis in a conversation with Professor Richard Fardon, SOAS, University of London, at the 10th Annual Mary Douglas Seminar, held at University College London, 23-24 May 2019. Fardon (Douglas's biographer and literary executor) and I discussed the preface Douglas completed in January 2005 for the Hebrew translation of Purity and Danger, which Fardon had recovered from Douglas's computer. He suggested that I write a short introduction to this interesting text and then print it. I thank Professor Fardon for suggesting that I do so and for his comments on drafts. I am grateful for helpful feedback that I received from Professors Elisheva Baumgarten, The Hebrew University; Jonathan Klawans, Boston University; Perri 6, Queen Mary University; and Paul Richards, Professor Emeritus, Wageningen University. I also thank the editors and their anonymous reviewers for insightful comments that contributed to the scope and clarity of the article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. All Rights Reserved.


  • Mary Douglas
  • Purity and Danger
  • Valerio Valeri
  • anthropology
  • religious experience
  • “Abominations of Leviticus”


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