The nature of disgust and the way it was expressed in different periods of the history of humanity still presents an open question that modern anthropologists try to answer. In her work devoted to this feeling, Durham attempts at using the knowledge on disgust to better understand its emotional component and take a fresh look at the mind-body problem discussed by different philosophers (131). Analyzing various meanings of disgust, the researcher proves that the relevance of this concept to anthropologic studies is underestimated and fills in the research gap.
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The work under consideration actively uses vivid examples to show many faces of disgust and, therefore, demonstrate its deep meaning. The main argument included by Durham is that studying disgust contributes to improving various analytical frameworks due to its connection with culture, emotion, and social processes (133). Reflecting on “the sensibility of disgust”, Durham analyzes the etymology of the term and demonstrates that it does not only refer to ingestion and physical discomfort (134). The notion of disgust may vary depending on cultural values and refer to unpleasant visual information fear, or “the loss of balance” (Durham 134).
The article goes beyond explaining disgust at the physical level and discusses its contribution to class discrimination. Unlike the great and the good, people of the lower class can be associated with something unpleasant (Durham 136). The article states that it also demonizes various social groups such as homosexual people – the feeling of disgust is exploited by attracting unnecessary attention to the physical aspects of same-sex relationships.
Finally, according to the researcher, the feeling of disgust sheds light on the mind-body conflict since it presents a moral sentiment and refers to physical differences. Being a multifaceted and intimate experience, it can act as a source of creativity and self-knowledge as is clear from many works of art (Durham 138). Together with setting boundaries, the above-mentioned functions of disgust make this sensation so important.
Durham, Deborah. “Disgust and the Anthropological Imagination.” Ethnos, vol. 76, no. 2, 2011, pp. 131-156.