In this chapter, the antinomies cleanliness/dirtiness and cleanliness/impurity are examined in their social and cultural dimensions. Indeed, this is a theme that leads to a longitudinal (i.e. a reflection on the historical time) and a multidisciplinary analysis. First, the considerations about the body as an object of representations and collective images (Jodelet, 1989, 2007) are examined. In particular, a series of conducts connected to the body (such as hygiene practices, habits and traditions of cleanliness) are considered in their historical and cultural variability. Starting from these premises, the link between cleanliness and purity – as it is for instance ritualized and conceived in religious practices – is analyzed. In the past centuries, the necessity of cleaning (as a protection from contamination and impurity) has indeed became particularly linked to the topic of purification in the religious contexts. This necessity to be protected by threats of impurity has sometimes brought to supporting policies of discrimination and intolerance toward others groups. Then, the exaggerations and aberrations of cleanliness and purification with reference to individual psychopathology – e.g. people’s obsessive-compulsive paths of personal hygiene practices – will be examined. In particular, many authors underline how compulsive cleaning and pathological disorders linked to cleanliness are mainly driven by fears of contamination, with some possible effects on social interactions (e.g. social phobia). Finally, in a psychosocial perspective we will explore how the boundaries between ingroup and outgroup are often tracked by the antinomies of clean/dirty and pure/impure. The ideas of clean and dirty indeed appear very early in childhood by a process of categorization that classifies the world into categories of coherent meaning. This process is influenced by the values orientation, both at the individual and the collective level (Tajfel, 1981). In this sense, by the process of categorization, we will examine how a bodily condition of human beings (such as personal hygiene) may become a regulator of social encounters. In particular, the antinomies of clean/dirty and pure/impure may sustain ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation through the emotions of disgust and the sense of threat that arises from social interactions with strangers and minority groups. The subjective emotion of disgust (personally experienced, neurologically supported and culturally determined by common and reified systems of beliefs) may indeed legitimate social exclusion, rejection and isolation of persons and groups stigmatized as contaminating (Rochira, 2014). In a time where multiculturalism is a reality more and more present in our cultural scene, it is inevitable a confrontation with concepts and practices profoundly different of understanding what is clean and what is dirty, what may considered pure and what impure.

Cleanliness issues: From individual practices to collective visions

SPELTINI, GIUSEPPINA;PASSINI, STEFANO
2016

Abstract

In this chapter, the antinomies cleanliness/dirtiness and cleanliness/impurity are examined in their social and cultural dimensions. Indeed, this is a theme that leads to a longitudinal (i.e. a reflection on the historical time) and a multidisciplinary analysis. First, the considerations about the body as an object of representations and collective images (Jodelet, 1989, 2007) are examined. In particular, a series of conducts connected to the body (such as hygiene practices, habits and traditions of cleanliness) are considered in their historical and cultural variability. Starting from these premises, the link between cleanliness and purity – as it is for instance ritualized and conceived in religious practices – is analyzed. In the past centuries, the necessity of cleaning (as a protection from contamination and impurity) has indeed became particularly linked to the topic of purification in the religious contexts. This necessity to be protected by threats of impurity has sometimes brought to supporting policies of discrimination and intolerance toward others groups. Then, the exaggerations and aberrations of cleanliness and purification with reference to individual psychopathology – e.g. people’s obsessive-compulsive paths of personal hygiene practices – will be examined. In particular, many authors underline how compulsive cleaning and pathological disorders linked to cleanliness are mainly driven by fears of contamination, with some possible effects on social interactions (e.g. social phobia). Finally, in a psychosocial perspective we will explore how the boundaries between ingroup and outgroup are often tracked by the antinomies of clean/dirty and pure/impure. The ideas of clean and dirty indeed appear very early in childhood by a process of categorization that classifies the world into categories of coherent meaning. This process is influenced by the values orientation, both at the individual and the collective level (Tajfel, 1981). In this sense, by the process of categorization, we will examine how a bodily condition of human beings (such as personal hygiene) may become a regulator of social encounters. In particular, the antinomies of clean/dirty and pure/impure may sustain ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation through the emotions of disgust and the sense of threat that arises from social interactions with strangers and minority groups. The subjective emotion of disgust (personally experienced, neurologically supported and culturally determined by common and reified systems of beliefs) may indeed legitimate social exclusion, rejection and isolation of persons and groups stigmatized as contaminating (Rochira, 2014). In a time where multiculturalism is a reality more and more present in our cultural scene, it is inevitable a confrontation with concepts and practices profoundly different of understanding what is clean and what is dirty, what may considered pure and what impure.
Purity and Danger Now: New Perspectives
162
178
Speltini, G.; Passini, S.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/576359
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