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lectures > lectures autumn 2000

Taboos: The tradition of the forbidden

Speaker: Lynn Holden
7th October 2000

What are the origins of table manners? What are the politics of cannibalism? Why is the left hand thought to be sinister? These apparently unrelated questions all hinge on the fundamental notion of taboo. Lynn Holden will take us on a fascinating journey into the strange world of taboos and show that, far from being remnants of a distant time or place, products of supposedly 'primitive' thought, they are a crucial part of our, or indeed any society, determining how people must and must not behave. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, folklore, psychology, art, literature, music and the natural sciences, Holden will look at aspects of the meaning of taboos, their use and importance in religion, economics, politics and society.

Lynn Holden is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh (School of Scottish Studies). Her PhD is in Comparative Mythology and her first degree in English Literature and Folklife Studies, both at Edinburgh. Previous publications include Forms of Deformity: A Motif Index of Abnormalities, Deformities and Disabilities of the Human Form in Traditional Literature (Sheffield Academic Press, 1991). Her latest book, Encyclopaedia of Taboos (ABC-CLIO), is due out in December 2000.