Gender Roles and Biological Determinism in Mead and Chagnon
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From the Paper:"Margaret Mead and Napoleon Chagnon have at least one thing in common: controversy. The findings of both these leading figures in anthropology have been called into question and some have even gone so far as to impugn their methods and motives. However, apart from the attacks on their works, these two anthropologists also share an involvement in two fundamental issues in anthropology: gender roles and biological determinism. Both saw these two issues as related, but, oddly enough, their views on the relationship are diametrically opposed.
"Mead's interest in gender roles, or more specifically, in the relationship between the sexes, particularly during adolescence,grew out of the debate in anthropology in the 1920s between cultural determinism and biological determinism. Her mentor, Franz Boas, widely considered the "Father of American Anthropology" (Holmes & Holmes 2006: 38) dominated the field with his "compelling idea" that every aspect of human behaviour, both internal and external, was moulded by social conditioning (Freeman 2006: 30).Mead travelled to Samoa to study adolescence among the Samoans, and returned with remarkable findings, later published in a book entitled Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), that effectively drove the last nail into the coffin of biological determinism by demonstrating the dominance of nurture over nurture (Holmes & Holmes 2006: 38).
"From Freeman's account (2006: 30-31), it would seem that Mead went to Samoa with a preset agenda, namely, to look for evidence of cultural conditioning that would undermine the position of biological determinism. The test case would be adolescence. In the Western world at that time, the notion of adolescence as a time of trauma, conflict, and stresswas widely accepted. According to the doctrine of biological determinism, a traumatic adolescence is inevitable, since it is biologically determined, that is, it is caused by the biological changes that result from the onset of puberty, and particularly those changes that lead to marked gender differentiation between the sexes. It follows that if a traumatic adolescence is biologically determined, then all human adolescents, regardless of their socio-cultural environment, will experience conflict and stress as their bodies go through the biological changes that are necessary for sexual maturity to be achieved. If a society could be found in which adolescence was not experienced as traumatic, this would prove the biological determinism theory wrong, since the theory would not be applicable in every instance. Mead claimed she found the "negative instance" (Freeman 2006: 27; Holmes & Holmes 2006: 38) in Samoa."
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Gender Roles and Biological Determinism in Mead and Chagnon (2014, July 23) Retrieved January 23, 2021, from https://www.academon.com/comparison-essay/gender-roles-and-biological-determinism-in-mead-and-chagnon-153960/
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