Concepts of purity and impurity are used in a great variety of contexts for both concrete and immaterial phenomena and are firmly embedded in many, often antagonistic worldviews. Can a common core be discerned in the various ways purity is conceived, extending over and beyond cultural differences? Both change and continuity in purity and its (corresponding) discourses afford insight into the dynamics of social transformative processes. They form the perspective to apply purity concepts and submit them to personal interpretation. Though usually combined with, or even tantamount to, ritual action these concepts seem to lend themselves particularly to being de-ritualized and then re-ritualized.
The 23 contributions of How Purity is Made discuss purity and impurity by looking at the dimensions of action, conception, representation, experience and internalisation. They cover geographical regions from Europe over Asia to Northern America and span chronologically from prehistory to the present time.