A small tree pangolin being held.
A tree pangolin, by Valerius Tygart.

This cute Pokémon-like creature is a pangolin. Pangolins are interesting to anthropologists because they tell us something about how we classify things, and how we react to things that can’t easily be classified.

Mary Douglas was anthropologist who wrote about the Lele people of Central Africa in the 1950s. She was particuarly interested in how people classify things and what it says about our cultures. She thought that we felt strong emotions towards things that we couldn’t classify, we could consider them taboo or somehow special.

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