Instead of dredging up the old, I'll just link to the old thread
and continue where I
I'm reading 'Jesus: A revolutionary biography' by John Dominic Crossan and I came across a section that reminded me of the discussion about society
(This snippet taken from a discussion on 'Lepra and Leprosy'... however, religion and diseases/illness aside, the snippet retains intriguing ideas
when considering today's standards on appearances and society, the body-to-society equation.)
from page 79
"I quote once more from Mary Douglas [an anthropologist]: 'When rituals express anxiety about the body's orifices, the sociological counterpart of
this anxiety is the care to protect the political and cultural unity of a minority group. The Isrealites were always in their history a hard-pressed
minority... The threatened boundaries of their body would be well mirrored in their care for the integrity, unity, and purity of the physical
That meant that an especial concern with orifices, with what should and should not enter or exit from the body's standard openings. Thus Leviticus 11
legislates about food going into the body and Leviticus 12 about babies coming out. But Leviticus 13-14, on leprosy, raises an even more dangerous
boundary problem. The standard bodily orifices can be clearly delineated and their incomings and outgoings categorized as clean or unclean. And that
establishes, as it was meant to do, an intense concentration on boundary establishment. When, however, would-be orifices start to appear where no
orifices are meant to be, then, unable to tell orifice from surface, or with all boundaries rendered porous, the entire system breaks down. That is
why biblical leprosy applies not only to skin... but to clothes...and to house walls... and it renders each surface ritually
unclean -- that is, socially unappropriate. The leprous person is not a social threat because of medical contagion, threatening infection or epidemic,
as we might imagine, but because of symbolic contagion, threatening in microcosm the very identity, integrity, and security of society at large."
Again, while this is about leprosy, I'm (still) curious about the idea that holes that 'should not be there' are a sign of social dis-unity.
On one level, it seems fitting -- if everyone has the same clothing (or at least everything whole), this is a sign of unity, and those whose clothing
has holes would, obviously, not be a part of that unity.
On another, it (still, to me) seems silly to draw such bold lines and connections between appearance and society. Truly -- who cares so long as you
are, at least, moderately covered?! Is this an extension of our inner social animals -- I'm part of the Punk tribe, and you're a part of the Goth
tribe, and you're a part of the Hip-Hop tribe.. Easy distinctions between individual animals? (...while all being part of the same overall tribe...
that is, for me, a mind-twist!)
**This whole discussion is, by the way, coming from a girl who has never had a real sense of community. (Yes, I understand that, even without wanting
it, I am inherently a part of society. However, there's a difference between being an active member, and, what I'd call, an observational
While I have shocked my family in the past, they've never ostracized me for my appearance/behavior -- and they very well had that option. In
comparison, I have
been ostracized by society, even before I adopted my radical appearance.
So I feel like I have no real frame of reference for this particular 'phenomenon', if you will. And maybe that is where my inability to fully
understand this body-to-society thing comes from. Maybe it's been the forceful push for 'individualism', rather than 'groupism' that has tainted
my understanding of this concept.**
What do y'all think? Is my connection with the Crossan quote reasonable, or only somewhat true? Does the quote only apply to yester-year, or is it
still viable today?
mod edit: added external quote tags
Quote Reference (review link)
[edit on 10-10-2006 by UK Wizard]