The fangs of reproduction: an analysis of Taiwanese menstrual pollution in the context of Buddhist philosophy and practice

Yeshe Lhamo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Anthropologists have hitherto considered Taiwanese pollution beliefs largely in the framework of Mary Douglas's theories, neglecting important sociocultural aspects that contribute to the persistence of pollution beliefs and related menstrual taboos. Recent studies have shown that most societies hold diverse attitudes toward menstruation, and that such attitudes are deeply rooted in the sociocultural and religious structures of the respective societies. Thus, in this article, rather than generalizing about "the pollution of Taiwanese women", I argue that the unraveling of the complexity of Taiwanese menstrual pollution beliefs necessitates their analysis in the context of Buddhist philosophy and practice. Embedded in the specific Buddhist context, pollution beliefs and menstruation taboos gain validity. While menstrual taboos do not hark back to Buddhist beliefs, certain Buddhist attitudes toward the human body in general, and female embodiment in particular, allow for the formation of pollution beliefs. The analysis of Buddhist beliefs and practices in conjunction with Chinese views shows that their conflation contributed to the shaping and persistence of pollution beliefs and menstrual taboos.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)157-178
    JournalHistory and Anthropology
    Volume14
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2003

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