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Date of Award

7-1978

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Anthropology

Supervisor

Richard Slobodin

Language

English

Abstract

This thesis mainly concerns Chinese women's pollution in respect of menstruation and childbirth. The thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and practices towards these subjects, and the associated aspects on puberty, marriage, pregnancy and menopause, as collected from interviews of ninety-two women in northern Taiwan in 1974, are detailedly discussed. Upon placing the belief in temporary female pollution within what Mary Douglas (1966) suggests as the "broader ritual pollution complex" in which pollution is related to fundamental disorder, or things out of context, and hence dangerous and threatening to society, it is possible to accept that the sources of pollution are not solely women themselves, nor are men responsible for the dirt. Rather, they are problematic events associated with birth and death in which both women and men are implicated. Menstrual and birth fluids, the main sources of female pollution, encompass further ambiguity between life and death, and are considered particularly polluting than other bodily dirt. Furthermore, in a typical male-oriented society in which women are socially situated on the boundaries, breaking in as outsiders and strangers, females, rather than males, are often depicted as polluting.

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