Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)

Ria Reis presents the work of Mary Douglas

AISSR Great Thinkers Seminar Series

01Mar2017 15:30 - 17:00


In 1949 Mary Douglas, then 28 years old, started her lifelong search for a sociological theory of meaning. A theory to help understand how in specific ecological and historical contexts people, simultaneously create particular patterns of society and organize knowledge, produce beliefs and ritual, in compatible patterns.

Unlike other social scientists of her day Douglas approached this question not by focusing on order, but by using disorder and dirt, what is despised and abhorred, as window to what order is about. Her focus on ordinary life allowed her to refocus her anthropological gaze from the small scale societies to the complex world of industrialised societies. 

Mary Douglas has been one of the most productive anthropologists, publishing a book or collection of essays on the most widely differing topics every second or third year of her long career that culminated in her being knighted by the queen.

Ria Reis about the work of Mary Douglas

In her lecture Ria Reis will shortly sketch some fundamental ideas that steered Douglas' work and then focus on two interrelated themes that Douglas passionately investigated in parallel approaches. One is the search for the fundamental structures that underlie how specific communities experience certain implicit knowledge as too true to warrant discussion. Second is the phenomenon of ordering itself, which Douglas studied through the window of the queer, the ambivalent and the discarded, the foreign, excluded and marginalised.

About Ria Reis

Ria Reis is Associate Professor in the department of Sociology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and Professor of medical anthropology at Leiden University Medical Center, department of Public Health and Primary Care (LUMC/PHEG) and Fellow of the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Her current research focuses on the trans-generational transference of vulnerabilities in contexts of inequality and (post)conflict, and on young people’s health perceptions and strategies. She is developing an applied research programme on child idioms of distress as expressions of communal social suffering in regions affected by epidemics, disasters, conflicts and violence. Her graduate and doctoral students work on these issues in all continents, but particularly in Africa.


All are welcome. Registration via:

PhD Seminar

This lecture is followed by a PhD seminar on 8 March, 15.00-17.00.

Location: Roeterseiland Campus, REC-C 0.02

  • Roeterseilandcampus - gebouw B/C/D (ingang B/C)

    Nieuwe Achtergracht 166 | 1018 WV Amsterdam
    Receptie B: 525 5340 Receptie C: 525 5470

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