The Enduring Legacy of Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead was a U.S. anthropologist and public intellectual did her foundational fieldwork in Samoa in the 1920s. A student of Franz Boas, Mead published Coming of Age in Samoa which challenged the western idea that puberty is a tumultuous and trying time.

In contrast, Samoan teen girls appeared to live an “idyllic” life. Mead’s analysis was subjected to scrutiny by Derek Freeman shortly after her death. Freeman’s further research called into questions Mead’s conclusions about Samoan life. While this “scrutiny” was productive in the sense that it challenged anthropologists to consider the finer points of fieldwork, it tread upon the accomplishments of one of the founders of modern anthropology. This BBC documentary details these events.

There is so much more to say in response to Freeman’s scrutiny. Another day, anther post. What do you think? Let me know on Twitter.

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