Purity, Power and Cruelty

Robbie Duschinsky

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    One of the most significant theoretical paradigms for understanding themes of purity and impurity available to researchers is that of Mary Douglas. However her account is problematic: it neglects the analysis of power-relations and subjectivity due to its universalizing, structural-functionalist scope. By contrast Primo Levi’s writings offer an example of a particular cultural economy of purity, and shed light on how a contingent form of purity judgement in Fascist ideology refracted into multiple lived discourses. Levi traces changes in purity narratives across different institutional and social contexts, even within the psyche of a single perpetrator or victim. His writings show the pressing need for a new theory of purity and impurity, and offers fundamental insights towards such an account.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)312-328
    JournalCritique of Anthropology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Dec 2011


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