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Margaret Mead and Samoa

Posted by 4hiram on March 24, 2008

The Samoa Caper


Derek Freeman’s Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth (1983) touched off the most extended–and intractable–controversy in anthropology’s history. Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization (1928) was an anthropological classic read by many students in many countries over many years. As the title hints, her study is a lesson on how we, living the conflicts of advanced culture, can ease them by learning something from the low-stress social relations of a ‘primitive’ society where individualism and the nuclear family are absent. We can in some measure imitate them, particularly in sexuality, where Samoan adolescent girls are unfettered by taboos.

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