The essays focus on the collaborative development of 'cultural theory' from the 'grid and group' analysis of the 1970s through to its application and elaboration in her later thought. The material covers questions of culture and institutions, the challenges to culture posed by climate change and the nature of risk in culture.
What emerges is the most complete picture of Mary Douglas's cultural theory that is currently available to us.
The book will add to the legions of Douglas's readers across the disciplinary divisions of the social sciences.
A Very Personal Method showcases that the range of Mary Douglas's interests, which had few parallels amongst the leading social anthropologists of the twentieth century.
Although inspired by the classics of the discipline of anthropology, her theories were idiosyncratic and her applications of them never predictable.
By bringing together writings in different genres that she composed over the entirety of her career, this volume demonstrates her distinctive style of thought and expression. The topics she addressed ranged freely between family and friends, the demands of domestic routine, her belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, and cultural similarities and differences on a global scale. In her method and style, as much as in her explicit arguments, Mary Douglas constantly invited her readers to reflect on the inextricable intertwining of the personal and the theoretical in her thought.
More than any previous collection of Mary Douglas's work, A Very Personal Method reveals a mind restlessly reworking her enduring preoccupations and finding echoes of them in the new concerns she continued to draw from life.
Mary Douglas was one of the most widely read social anthropologists of the 20th Century. She is celebrated both as a literary stylist and an anthropological thinker who challenged common presuppositions and understandings of religion, economy and society. As a cornerstone of modernism in social anthropology, and a precursor of 21st Century interdisciplinarity, her work remains highly influential both within and outside the social sciences.
Richard Fardon is Mary Douglas's Literary Executor and Head of the Doctoral School and Professor of West African Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, UK