Controversy in Anthropology: Margaret Mead's "Coming of Age in Samoa"
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From the Paper:"This essay examines the controversy sparked by the publication of Margaret Mead's classic popular anthropological text, Coming of Age in Samoa, a controversy that arose in the context of the debate over the issue of cultural determinism vs. biological determinism that split the field of anthropology in the early twentieth century. The essay traces the roots of this debate as well as its influence on Mead and on her decision to undertake ethnographic work in American Samoa under the tutelage of her mentor Franz Boas, a proponent of cultural determinism. While Mead's work was initially well received, it later came under attack from Derek Freeman, who himself engaged in ethnographic work in Western Samoa, beginning in 1940. Freeman claimed that his work did not corroborate Mead's findings regarding the sexual permissiveness of the Samoans. He accused Mead of being blinded by her loyalty to her mentor, Boas, who was one of the strongest proponents of cultural determinism in the field at the time. Freeman also charged that Mead had been duped by her Samoan informants. Following these initial allegations, other anthropologists sought to replicate Mead's work in an attempt to exonerate her, or at the very least clear her of the charge of malfeasance. The essay goes on to review the work of these later anthropologists, who acknowledge that Mead did make some minor mistakes, but that she was right in terms of her overall conclusions. As an additional aspect to the discussion, the essay presents the findings of the last three or four decades with regard to the social behaviour of bonobos, which seem to give plausibility to Mead's observations. The essay concludes with an assessment by Mead's daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson."
Cite this Essay:
Controversy in Anthropology: Margaret Mead's "Coming of Age in Samoa" (2014, July 30) Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.academon.com/essay/controversy-in-anthropology-margaret-mead-coming-of-age-in-samoa-153964/
"Controversy in Anthropology: Margaret Mead's "Coming of Age in Samoa"" 30 July 2014. Web. 06 August. 2020. <https://www.academon.com/essay/controversy-in-anthropology-margaret-mead-coming-of-age-in-samoa-153964/>