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Mead, Margaret

Margaret Mead

Born: December 16, 1901
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: November 15, 1978
New York, New York

American anthropologist

The American anthropologist (a scientist who studies human beings and their origins, distribution, and relationships) Margaret Mead developed the field of culture and personality research and was a leading influence in introducing the concept of culture into education, medicine, and public policy.

Early life

Margaret Mead was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 16, 1901. She grew up in a free-thinking intellectual home. Her father, Edward Sherwood Mead, was a professor at the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce and the founder of the University of Pennsylvania's evening school. Her mother, Emily Fogg Mead, was a sociologist (a scientist who studies social group behaviors) and an early supporter of women's rights. Margaret's grandmother, Martha Ramsay Mead, a child psychologist (a scientist who studies the mind and its behavior), played an active role in the lives of Margaret, her three sisters and her brother. It was her grandmother who first taught Margaret to watch the behavior of the younger children to figure out the reasons behind their actions.

Mead's childhood school days were unusual in that she only attended one year of half days in the fourth grade and six total years at various high schools. This "formal" education was very much supplemented by all of the educators in her family. Mead loved tradition and ritual, so she joined the Episcopal church at the age of eleven. This faith would be her strength throughout her life. Mead at first wanted to be a painter when she grew up, but such intellectual role models led her to college thinking of English as a field of study.

Mead thrived on change outside of her religious beliefs. In 1919 Mead transferred from DePauw University, in Indiana, to Barnard College, in New York City, where she majored in psychology. Her senior year anthropology course with Franz Boas (18581942) was the most powerful event in her life, since it was then that she decided to become an anthropologist. She graduated from Barnard in 1923. In the same year she married Luther Cressman and entered the anthropology department of Columbia University.

Academic life

The Columbia department at this time consisted of Boas, who taught everything, and Ruth Benedict (18871948), his only assistant. The catastrophe of World War I (191418; a war between the Central powersled by Germanyand the Allies: England, the United States, Italy, and other nations) and the displacement of people that followed had its impact on the developing study of anthropology. Anthropologists began to ask how their knowledge of the nature of humankind might be used to clarify current problems. At the same time the influence of Sigmund Freud (18561939) was beginning to affect all of behavioral (human action) sciences. The atmosphere in the Columbia department was charged with excitement, and whole new perspectives for anthropology were opening up.

Early fieldwork

Mead completed her studies in 1925 and set off for a year of fieldwork in Samoa in the face of opposition from older colleagues (people in the same area of interest) worried about sending a young woman alone to a Pacific island. She was going to study the life of adolescent girls. She learned the native language (one of seven she eventually mastered) and lived in a Samoan household as "one of the girls." She found that young Samoan girls experienced none of the tensions American and European teenagers suffered from, and she showed the kind of social arrangements that make this easy transition to adulthood possible.

On returning from the field Mead became assistant curator (one in charge of the museum) of ethnology (the science of classifying mankind into races) at the American Museum of Natural History, where she remained, eventually becoming curator and, in 1969, curator emeritus (honorary title). Her goal in going to the museum was "to make Americans understand cultural anthropology as well as they understood archaeology [study of material remains, fossils, rocks, of past human life and activity]."

In 1928, Mead left for New Guinea, this time with Reo Fortune, an anthropologist from New Zealand whom she had married that year. Her project was the study of the thought of young children, testing some of the then current theories. Her study of children's thought in its sociocultural (having both social and cultural elements) context is described in Growing Up in New Guinea (1930). She later returned to the village of Peri, where this study was made, after twenty-five years, when the children she had known in 1929 were leaders of a community going through the difficulties of change to modern life. She described this change, with flashbacks to the earlier days, in New Lives for Old (1956).

New field methods

Mead's interest in psychiatry had turned her attention to the problem of the cultural context of schizophrenia (a mental disorder whose symptoms are a detachment to one's environment and a breakdown of one's personalitythoughts, feelings, and actions). With this in mind she went to Bali, a society where going into a trance (the state of complete unconscious) and other forms of dissociation (an escape from the outer world into an inner one) are culturally approved and encouraged. She was now married to Gregory Bateson, a British anthropologist whom she had met in New Guinea. The Balinese study was especially noteworthy for development of new field techniques. The extensive use of film made it possible to record and analyze significant details of behavior that had escaped the pencil-and-paper recordings. Of the thirtyeight thousand photographs which Mead and Bateson brought back, seven hundred fiftynine were selected for Balinese Character (1942), a joint study with Bateson. This publication marks a major change in the recording and presentation of ethnological data and may prove in the long run to be one of her most significant contributions to the science of anthropology.

Largely through the work of Ruth Benedict and Mead, the relevance of anthropology to problems of public policy was recognized though somewhat belatedly. When World War II (193945; a war between the Axis powers: Japan, Italy, and Germanyand the Allies: England, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States) brought the United States into contact with peoples just coming from colonialism (a control of a group of people or area by a foreign government), the need to understand many lifestyles became obvious. Mead conducted a nationwide study of American food habits prior to the introduction of rationing (process in war time of conserving goods for soldiers by portioning them out sparingly to citizens). Later she was sent to England to try to explain to the British the habits of the American soldiers who were suddenly among them.

Rooted in psychology

Mead drew heavily on psychology, especially learning theory and psychoanalysis (type of treatment for emotional disorders in which a patient talks through childhood experiences and looks at the significance of dreams). In return she contributed significantly to the development of psychoanalytic theory by emphasizing the importance of culture in personality development. She served on many national and international committees for mental health and was instrumental in introducing the study of culture into training programs for physicians and social workers.

Mead was a dominant force in developing the field of culture and personality and the related field of national character research. Her theoretical position is based on the assumption that an individual matures within a cultural context which includes an ideological system (ideas), the expectations of others, and techniques of socialization (methods of fitting in with one's social environment) which affect not only outward responses but also the inner mental structure.

Mead was criticized by certain other social scientists for neglecting quantitative (measuring) methods and for what has been called "anecdotal" (relying on short stories of interesting incidents for proof) handling of data. She was also accused of applying concepts of individual psychology to the analysis of social process while ignoring historical and economic factors. But since her concern lay with predicting the behavior of individuals within a given social setting and not with the development of institutions, the criticism does not hold much weight.

There is no question that Mead was one of the leading American intellectuals of the twentieth century. Through her best-selling books, her public lectures, and her well-read column in Redbook magazine, Mead popularized anthropology in the United States. She was also a role model for American women, encouraging them to pursue professional careers previously closed to women while at the same time championing their roles as mothers.

Margaret Mead died on November 15, 1978, in New York City and was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For More Information

Bateson, Mary Catherine. With a Daughter's Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. New York: Morrow, 1984.

Cassidy, Robert. Margaret Mead: A Voice for the Century. New York: Universe Books, 1982.

Foerstel, Leonara, and Angela Gilliam, eds. Margaret Mead's Contradictory Legacy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.

Howard, Jane. Margaret Mead: A Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

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Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead

The American anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) developed the field of culture and personality research and was a dominant influence in introducing the concept of culture into education, medicine, and public policy.

Margaret Mead was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on Dec. 16, 1901. She grew up there in a liberal intellectual atmosphere. Her father, Edward Sherwood Mead, was a professor in the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce and the founder of the University of Pennsylvania's evening school and extension program. Her mother, Emily Fogg Mead, was a sociologist and an early advocate of woman's rights.

In 1919 Mead entered DePauw University but transferred after a year to Barnard College, where she majored in psychology. In her senior year she had a course in anthropology with Franz Boas which she later described as the most influential event in her life, since it was then that she decided to become an anthropologist. She graduated from Barnard in 1923. In the same year she married Luther Cressman and entered the anthropology department of Columbia University.

The Columbia department at this time consisted of Boas, who taught everything, and Ruth Benedict, his only assistant. The catastrophe of World War I and the dislocations that followed it had had their impact on the developing discipline of anthropology. Anthropologists began to ask how their knowledge of the nature of humankind might be used to illuminate contemporary problems. At the same time the influence of Sigmund Freud was beginning to be felt in all the behavioral sciences. The atmosphere in the Columbia department was charged with intellectual excitement, and whole new perspectives for anthropology were opening up.

Early Fieldwork

Mead completed her studies in 1925 and set off for a year's fieldwork in Samoa in the face of opposition from older colleagues worried about sending a young woman alone to a Pacific island. Her problem was to study the life of adolescent girls. She learned the native language (one of seven she eventually mastered) and lived in a Samoan household as "one of the girls." She found that young Samoan girls experience none of the tensions American and European adolescents suffer from, and she demonstrated the kind of social arrangements that make this easy transition to adulthood possible.

On returning from the field Mead became assistant curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History, where she remained, eventually becoming curator and, in 1969, curator emeritus. Her mandate in going to the museum was "to make Americans understand cultural anthropology as well as they understood archaeology."

When Mead wrote Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), her publisher, concerned that the book fell into no conventional category, asked for a chapter on what the work's significance would be for Americans. The result was the final chapter, "Education for Choice," which set the basic theme for much of her lifework.

In 1928, after completing a technical monograph, The Social Organization of Manuá, Mead left for New Guinea, this time with Reo Fortune, an anthropologist from New Zealand whom she had married that year. Her project was the study of the thought of young children, testing some of the then current theories. Her study of children's thought in its sociocultural context is described in Growing Up in New Guinea (1930). She later returned to the village of Peri, where this study was made, after 25 years, when the children she had known in 1929 were leaders of a community going through the difficulties of transition to modern life. She described this transition, with flashbacks to the earlier days, in New Lives for Old (1956).

New Field Methods

Mead's interest in psychiatry had turned her attention to the problem of the cultural context of schizophrenia, and with this in mind she went to Bali, a society where trance and other forms of dissociation are culturally sanctioned. She was now married to Gregory Bateson, a British anthropologist whom she had met in New Guinea. The Balinese study was especially noteworthy for development of new field techniques. The extensive use of film made it possible to record and analyze significant minutiae of behavior that escape the pencil-and-paper ethnographer. Of the 38,000 photographs which Mead and Bateson brought back, 759 were selected for Balinese Character (1942), a joint study with Bateson. This publication marks a major innovation in the recording and presentation of ethnological data and may prove in the long run to be one of her most significant contributions to the science of anthropology.

Studies Relevant to the "Public Good"

Largely through the work of Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, the relevance of anthropology to problems of public policy was recognized to a degree, though somewhat belatedly. When World War II brought the United States into contact with allies, enemies, and peoples just emerging from colonialism, the need to understand many lifestyles became apparent. Mead conducted a nationwide study of American food habits prior to the introduction of rationing. Later she was sent to England to try to explain to the British the habits of the American soldiers who were suddenly thrust among them. After the war she worked as director of Research in Contemporary Cultures, a cross-cultural, trans-disciplinary project applying the insights and some of the methods of anthropology to the study of complex modern cultures. An overall view of the methods and some of the insights gained is contained in The Study of Cultures at a Distance (1953).

For the theoretical basis of her work in the field of culture and personality Margaret Mead drew heavily on psychology, especially learning theory and psychoanalysis. In return she contributed significantly to the development of psychoanalytic theory by emphasizing the importance of culture in personality development. She served on many national and international committees for mental health and was instrumental in introducing the study of culture into training programs for physicians and social workers.

In the 1960s Mead became deeply concerned with the unrest among the young. Her close contact with students gave her special insight into the unmet needs of youth—for better education, for autonomy, for an effective voice in decisions that affect their lives in a world which adults seem no longer able to control. Some of her views on these problems are set forth in Culture and Commitment (1970). Her thoughts on human survival under the threats of war, over-population, and degradation of the environment are contained in A Way of Seeing (1970).

Ever since Margaret Mead taught a class of young working women in 1926, she became deeply involved in education, both in the universities and in interpreting the lessons of anthropology to the general public. She joined the anthropology department at Columbia University in 1947 and also taught at Fordham University and the universities of Cincinnati and Topeka. She also lectured to people all over America and Europe. Mead died in 1978 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Margaret Mead was a dominant force in developing the field of culture and personality and the related field of national character research. Stated briefly, her theoretical position is based on the assumption that an individual matures within a cultural context which includes an ideological system, the expectations of others, and techniques of socialization which condition not only outward responses but also inner psychic structure. Mead was criticized by certain other social scientists on methodological and conceptual grounds. She was criticized for neglecting quantitative methods in favor of depth analysis and for what has been called "anecdotal" handling of data. On the theoretical side she was accused of applying concepts of individual psychology to the analysis of social process while ignoring historical and economic factors. But since her concern lay with predicting the behavior of individuals within a given social context and not with the origin of institutions, the criticism is irrelevant.

There is no question that Mead was one of the leading American intellectuals of the 20th century. Through her best-selling books, her public lecturing, and her popular column in Redbook magazine, Mead popularized anthropology in the United States. She also provided American women with a role model, encouraging them to pursue professional careers previously closed to women while at the same time championing their roles as mothers.

Further Reading

Of the many studies of Margaret Mead's life and career, see With a Daughter's Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson (1984) by Mary Catherine Bateson; Margaret Mead: A Voice for the Century (1982) by Robert Cassidy; and Margaret Mead's Contradictory Legacy (1992), edited by Leonard Foerstel and Angela Gilliam. See also Anthropologists and What They Do (1965), which was written for high school students and contains accounts of her life in the university and in the field. Her essay "Field Work in the Pacific Islands, 1925-1967" appears in Peggy Golde, ed., Women in the Field: Anthropological Experiences (1970). A full-length study of Mead is Allyn Moss, Margaret Mead: Shaping a New World (1963). Hoffman R. Hays, From Ape to Angel: An Informal History of Social Anthropology (1958), has an essay appraising her career. There are essays on Mead's life in Eleanor Clymer and Lillian Erlich, Modern American Career Women (1959), and Eve Parshalle, The Kashmir Bridge-women (1965). □

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Mead, Margaret

Mead, Margaret 1901-1978

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Margaret Mead was an American anthropologist whose career as a social scientist and public intellectual spanned the greater part of the twentieth century. She was an indefatigable fieldworker whose ethnographic research focused primarily on the study of small-scale societies in the South Pacific and Bali, but she was also well known for her insights about and prescriptions for American society. Mead received her PhD in anthropology in 1925 from Columbia University, where she worked with Dr. Franz Boas and Dr. Ruth Benedict, two anthropologists well known for their work on race and cultural relativism, or the idea that no culture or racial group is inherently superior to another and that any cultural practice can be understood within the context of the larger social structure and cultural whole of which it is a part. Along with Benedict, Mead was a major contributor to the development of the school of culture and personality, a subfield of cultural anthropology that sought to understand the role that culture played in shaping the personality of individual members of a particular society. Influenced by neo-Freudian theory of the 1930s and 1940s, Mead sought to apply psychoanalytic concepts about the individual especially the development of a child into an adultto the study of socialization in non-Western societies. Although aspects of culture and personality theory have been disparaged, many of the topics that Mead first investigated formed the basis for todays subfield of psychological anthropology.

After Mead returned from her first field trip to Samoa in 1926, she became curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History. She remained at the museum for the rest of her lengthy career. Meads fame arose from her ability to write books that captured the general publics interest with their engaging prose and provocative and timely choice of topics. Beginning with her first book Coming of Age in Samoa published in 1928, Mead became a best-selling author and an increasingly well-known expert on the topics of primitive cultures, adolescence, gender and sexuality, education, child development, and culture change. While Coming of Age in Samoa established Meads reputation as an anthropologist who studied sexuality, especially the sexual behavior of adolescent girls, subsequent books focused on education in so-called primitive cultures (Growing Up in New Guinea ), gender roles and male-female relations (Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies and Male and Female ), acculturation (The Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe ), the relationship between culture and the development of adult personality (Balinese Character ), national character (And Keep Your Powder Dry, Meads first anthropological book about American culture), New Lives for Old (about cultural transformation and the impact of Western development on traditional societies), and Culture and Commitment (Meads analysis of the generation gap).

During World War II (19391945) Mead worked for the U.S. government, contributing studies on American food habits, morale building, and the interpretation of British and American culture for British civilians and American soldiers in the United Kingdom. After the war Mead shifted her focus to the application of anthropological methods to the study of American society, the Soviet Union, and the problems of development faced by newly independent nations. As a result of her increasing media presence on television, in popular magazines, and the radio, by the time she died Mead was famous worldwide and eulogized as grandmother to the world.

In 1983, five years after Meads death, Australian anthropologist Derek Freeman published a detailed critique of Meads Samoan research, ultimately claiming that Meads informants had duped her and that her conclusions about the relative freedom toward premarital sex she had claimed characterized Samoan society were false. Moreover, Freeman concluded that if Meads Samoan findings were false, so too was the larger claim she had made about the relative importance of nurturance versus biologically innate characteristics of human behavior. Although Mead was not able to respond to Freemans critique herself, many anthropologists who had worked in Samoa, or who were proponents of the importance of cultural factors in shaping human behavior, came to her defense. They did so despite their acknowledgment of some factual errors in her Samoan research, which they claimed were of minor significance and the result of her youth and the infancy of anthropology as a social science. (For a detailed discussion of the critique of Freemans argument and defense of Meads work, see Caton [1990], Orans [1996], and Lapsley [1999]). In November 1983 the American Anthropological Association censured Freeman, citing inconsistencies and errors in his critique of Meads Samoan research. However, although the media coverage of the Mead-Freeman controversy damaged Meads public image, in 2001 the American Anthropological Association and the media honored Mead during her centennial year. This asserted her prominence as a public figure whose major contribution had been to apply anthropological methods and insights gleaned from the study of remote small-scale societies into the analysis of contemporary American society and the solution of problems that vexed complex modern societies in general.

SEE ALSO Anthropology, U.S.; Benedict, Ruth; Boas, Franz; Psychoanalytic Theory

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bateson, Gregory, and Margaret Mead. 1942. Balinese Character. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.

Caton, Hiram, ed. 1990. The Samoa Reader: Anthropologists Take Stock. Latham, MD: University Press of America.

Freeman, Derek. 1983. Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth (reprinted as Margaret Mead and the Heretic ). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Freeman, Derek. 1999. The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Lapsley, Hilary. 1999. Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict: The Kinship of Women. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Lutkehaus, Nancy. 1995. Introduction. In Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years, by Margaret Mead. New York: Kodansha International.

Lutkehaus, Nancy. 1995. Margaret Mead and the Rustling-of-the-Wind-in-the-Palm-Trees School of Ethnographic Writing. In Women Writing Culture, eds. Ruth Behar and Deborah A. Gordon, 186206. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mead, Margaret. 1928. Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization. New York: William Morrow. Reprinted 2001. New York: Perennial Classics, HarperCollins.

Mead, Margaret. 1930. Growing Up in New Guinea: A Comparative Study of Primitive Education. New York: William Morrow. Reprinted 2001. New York: Perennial Classics, HarperCollins.

Mead, Margaret. 1932. The Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe. New York: Columbia University Press.

Mead, Margaret. 1935. Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies. New York: William Morrow. Reprinted 2001. New York: Perennial Classics, HarperCollins.

Mead, Margaret. 1942. And Keep Your Powder Dry: An Anthropologist Looks at America. New York: William Morrow.

Mead, Margaret. 1949. Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World. New York: William Morrow. Reprinted 2001. New York: Perennial Classics, HarperCollins.

Mead, Margaret. 1956. New Lives for Old: Cultural TransformationManus, 19281953. New York: William Morrow. Reprinted 2001. New York: Perennial Classics HarperCollins.

Mead, Margaret. 1970. Culture and Commitment: A Study of the Generation Gap. Garden City, NY: Natural History Press.

Mead, Margaret. 1972. Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years. New York: William Morrow. Reprinted 1995. New York and Tokyo: Kodansha Press.

Orans, Martin. 1996. Not Even Wrong: Margaret Mead, Derek Freeman, and the Samoans. Novato, CA: Chandler and Sharp.

Nancy Lutkehaus

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Mead, Margaret (1901–1978)

Mead, Margaret (19011978)


Margaret Mead was born into an academic family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 16, 1901. She attended Barnard College and received her doctorate in cultural anthropology, working with Ruth Benedict and Franz Boas at Columbia University. Mead spent her entire professional career as a curator at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Between 1924 and 1936, she did fieldwork in eight different cultures and wrote extensively about most of them for the rest of her life. From the start of World War II, Mead directed most of her work toward public affairs. Mead died in New York City on November 15, 1978.

While studying cultural anthropology with Boas, Mead went to Samoa to document the influence of culture on adolescence. Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) became a classic for its news that adolescence is more a cultural preoccupation than a biological imperative:

The adolescent girl in Samoa differed from her sister who had not reached puberty in one chief respect, that in the older girl certain bodily changes were present in the older girl which were absent in the younger girl. There were no other great differences (p. 196).

Mead also reported that the young women of Samoa suffered much less constraint and neurosis in matters related to sex. Mead's book, with its open discussion of the sexuality of adolescent girls and its conscious inversion of contemporary morals, became a major text of the mid-twentieth century. Coming of age would never be the same again.

Mead used much the same argument to take a stand on the gender issues of her time. She wrote that "we know of no culture that has said, articulately, that there is no difference between men and women except in the way they contribute to the creation of the next generation" (1949, p. 8). For Mead, there are biological differences between males and females, but how these differences make a difference is greatly dependent on the cultural environment in which they are staged, interpreted, and made consequential.

In subsequent fieldwork, Mead studied younger children in New Guinea and toddlers in Bali. In each case, she delivered a cultural analysis of the child-rearing process by documenting "those sequences in child-other behavior which carry the greatest communication weight and so are crucial for the development of each culturally regular character structure" (Mead and Macgregor, p. 27). Documented differences in crucial "sequences in child-other behavior" from other cultures challenged Western categories of child development, gender, and desire. Whether in popular magazines or on television shows, Mead used human variation to disrupt heartfelt American biases about what was natural and inherent.

Mead wrote more than twenty books, some technical, most not. As the public face of anthropology, she celebrated a comparative method based on intense fieldwork. For Mead, anthropology was a clearinghouse for moral affairs. She tried every available device for eliciting, recording, and representing patterns of interaction and interpretation among the people she studied. With Gregory Bateson, she pioneered the photographic documentation of life and learning in different cultures. Culture and character could be filmed because they are relentlessly worked on by persons teaching and learning together. From Bali, Mead offers a nice image:

Where the American mother attempts to get the child to parrot simple courtesy phrases, the Balinese mother simply recites them, glibly, in the first person, and the child finally slips into speech, as into an old garment, worn before, but fitted on by another hand. (Bateson and Mead, p. 13)

People fit into each other as into garments, with give- and-take leading to fragile but consistent outcomes. In nine photographs covering two minutes of a mother/son interaction, Bateson and Mead show how the Balinese practice "awayness," a give-and-take in which participants arrange ways to be together, but unengaged, to be in each other's presenceeven touchingbut unavailable. In her notes on the photographs, Mead points to a communicatively weighty sequence in child-other behavior in a "culturally regular character structure" marked by awayness: the mother calls the child to her, stimulates the child (photos 12), then attends elsewhere (photos 38), until both mother and child look out on the world, bored and away (photo 9).

Mead remains a source of celebration and controversy. Soon after her death, Derrick Freeman (1983) claimed the young Mead had been fooled by her Samoan informants: in Freeman's view she was naïve and driven to confirm Boas's position that culture, not biology, was primary in the organization of behavior. Where Mead saw sexual license, Freeman counted rape; where Mead saw generosity and detachment, Freeman found jealousy and aggression; where Mead saw cooperation, Freeman found hierarchy and ambivalence. The ensuing Freeman/Mead controversy has been resolved strongly in her favor. Lowell Holmes worked in Mead's village decades after she left Samoa and stated:

Despite the greater possibilities for error in a pioneering scientific study, her tender age (twenty-three), and her inexperience, I find that the validity of her Samoan research is remarkably high. I confirm Mead'sconclusion that it was undoubtedly easier to come of age in Samoa than in the United States in 1925.

Late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century controversy attacks Mead less for the quality of her science than for her commitment to a science tied to Western colonialism and imperialism. Nonetheless, leading anthropologists, such as Clifford Geertz and James Boon, continue to praise her work, her methods, and her fierce effort to use anthropology to confront social problems from a new perspective.

See also: Sociology and Anthropology of Childhood.

bibliography

Bateson, Gregory, and Margaret Mead. 1942. Balinese Character: A Photographic Analysis. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.

Bateson, Mary Catherine. 1984. With a Daughter's Eye. New York: William Morrow.

Freeman, Derrick. 1983. Margaret Mead and Samoa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Holmes, Lowell. 1987. Quest for the Real Samoa. New York: Bergin and Garvey.

Mead, Margaret. 1928. Coming of Age in Samoa. New York: William Morrow.

Mead, Margaret. 1930. Growing Up in New Guinea. New York: William Morrow.

Mead, Margaret. 1949. Male and Female. New York: William Morrow.

Mead, Margaret. 1972. Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years. New York: William Morrow.

Mead, Margaret. 1977. Letters from the Field. New York: Harper and Row.

Mead, Margaret and Francis Macgregor. 1951. Growth and Culture. New York: G.D. Putnam and Sons.

Sullivan, Gerald. 1998. Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Highland Bali: Fieldwork Photographs of Bayung Gedé. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ray McDermott

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Mead, Margaret

Margaret Mead

1901-1978
American anthropologist whose work emphasized the relationship between culture and personality formation.

Margaret Mead was born in Philadelphia to a family of educators. In her youth, her main influences were her mother and maternal grandmother, both of whom had raised families and also pursued careers. Mead's formal education before entering college was sporadic, and she was mainly educated at home by her grandmother. An unhappy year at DePauw University turned Mead against coeducation, and she subsequently transferred to Barnard College. She first concentrated in English and psychology but became interested in anthropology under the influence of Columbia University anthropologists Franz Boas (1858-1942) and Ruth Benedict (1887-1948). Boas was urgently organizing ethnographic investigations of primitive cultures throughout the world before eventual contact with modern society, and he convinced Mead that she could make a contribution to this burgeoning field. After receiving her M.A. in psychology in 1924, she conducted her first field work in American Samoa, where she observed adolescent girls to determine if the turmoil associated with adolescence in the West is universal. Living with her research subjects in a Samoan village, Mead was the first American to use the participant-observer method developed by British anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942). Upon her return to the United States, she received her Ph.D. in anthropology in 1929 and published Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), in which she presented a portrait of Samoan culture as free from the sturm und drang of the teen years in Western societies because preparation for adulthood is a continuous process that begins early in life rather than a series of stages, which create a more stressful transition process.

Mead did extensive field work throughout the 1920s and 1930s. After her initial trip, she was always joined by a collaborator. These included her second husband, New Zealand psychologist Reo Fortune, and her third husband, the British anthropologist Gregory Bateson, whom she married in 1935. Mead and Bateson conducted two years of intensive field work together in Bali, pursuing their different research interests. They pioneered the use of film as a resource for anthropological research, shooting some 22,000 feet of film as well as thousands of still photographs. Besides the Balinese, groups studied by Mead included the Manus people of the Admiralty Islands, and the Arapesh, Mundugumor, Tchambuli, and Iatmul of New Guinea. A tireless investigator, she made many repeat visits to her research sites; over a 47-year period, she observed the Manus people seven times. Having studied seven different Pacific cultures as well as the Omaha tribe of North America, Mead became convinced of the importance of culture as a determinant of personality , following in the footsteps of Alfred Adler in the field of psychology and Ruth Benedict in anthropology. Mead detailed her theories of character formation and culture in Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935) and expanded further on the role of culture in gender formation in her 1949 work, Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World. (Although Mead's stature as an anthropologist is unquestioned, there has been some speculation that her subjects may have systematically lied to her during her investigations.) In contrast to Sigmund Freud's dictum, "anatomy is destiny," Mead found gender roles to be culturally determined rather than innate, noting that behavior regarded as masculine in one culture could be considered feminine in another.

Mead's professional skills were enlisted by the United States government during World War II to analyze the cultural characteristics of its wartime adversaries, the

Germans and Japanese, and facilitate relations with its allies, especially the British. From 1926 to 1964, Mead was associated with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City as a curator of ethnology, eventually attaining the status of curator emeritus. She became an adjunct professor at Columbia in 1954 and also held a number of visiting professorships elsewhere. Mead was also the chairperson of the Social Sciences division of Fordham University beginning in 1968. She served as president of the World Federation of Mental Health (1956-57), the American Anthropological Association (1960), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1975). Beginning in the 1960s, Mead's influence expanded to include a wider audience, as she agreed to write a monthly column for Redbook magazine, in which she discussed topics she had concentrated on for much of her careerchild-rearing practices and the family. In turn, she used her readers' letters to learn more about the concerns of American women. Mead was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her other books include Growing Up in New Guinea (1930), Balinese Character (with Gregory Bateson, 1942), Soviet Attitudes Toward Authority (1951), Childhood in Contemporary Societies (1955),

Anthropology: A Human Science (1964), Blackberry Winter (1972), an autobiographical account of her early life, and Letters from the Field, 1925-1975 (1977).

See also Child development; Conditioning; Sexuality

Further Reading

Bateson, Mary Catherine. With a Daughter's Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. New York: William Morrow, 1984.

Foerstel, Lenora, and Angela Gilliam, eds. Confronting the Margaret Mead Legacy: Scholarship, Empire, and the South Pacific. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.

Holmes, Lowell D. Quest for the Real Samoa: The Mead/Freeman Controversy and Beyond. South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey, 1987.

Rice, Edward. Margaret Mead: A Portrait. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

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Mead, Margaret (1901-1978)

MEAD, MARGARET (1901-1978)

Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist, was born on December 16, 1901, in Philadelphia and died on November 17, 1978, in New York City. She spent her entire career as a curator of the American Museum of Natural History and was an associate professor at Columbia University. After studying psychology and anthropology at Columbia, where she was influenced by the work of Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict, Mead first did fieldwork in eastern Samoa. In the published result, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), she wrote, "[A]dolescence represented no period of crisis or stress, but was instead an orderly developing of a set of slowly maturing interests" (p. 109). She also noted, within "a larger family community, in which there are several adult men and women, seems to ensure the [Samoan] child against the development of the crippling attitudes which have been labelled Oedipus complexes [and] the Electra complexes" (p. 147).

She made several trips to New Guinea and reported her findings in Growing Up in New Guinea (1930) and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935). Through these writings, Mead established herself as the leading proponent of the so-called "culture and personality" school of anthropology. Her work emphasizes the diversity of cultures and the plasticity of human nature, the preponderant influence of cultural models in the development of personality, and the cultural determination of sexual roles (1949). Influenced by the work of Erik H. Erikson and Gregory Bateson (her third husband), Mead saw trauma specific to individual cultures as leading to particular types of development in those culture. Relying mostly on photographs, she attempted to describe the infantile experiences that determine the formation of character (Bateson and Mead, 1942).

Although she sometimes used psychoanalytic concepts (identification, erotogenic zone, narcissism), she was primarily engaged in a relativist critique of psychoanalysis. For example, she reproached Freud for confining himself to an examination of the "specific ambivalence of attitudes institutionalized in our own culture." She believed she had refuted Lucien LévyBruhl, Jean Piaget, and Freud by showing that primitive children "displayed no tendency for spontaneous animist thought."

Mead's work, unable to escape the doubts of relativism, has been contested both ethnographically and theoretically (Freeman, 1983). Her principal merit is that she drew anthropologists' attention to the importance of early infancy, education, diet, and sexuality. Her criticisms of psychoanalysis, however, were based on considerable misunderstandings of the field, as she herself later recognized. "Instead of making the laborious and often painful effort of understanding psychoanalysis, we have been content to use some of its products, especially projection tests," she wrote. As a result, Mead's observations relate only to manifest behavior and not to intrapsychic conflicts or the unconscious.

Bertrand Pulman

See also: Oedipus complex; United States.

Bibliography

Bateson, Gregory, and Mead, Margaret. (1942). Balinese character: A photographic analysis. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.

Freeman, Derek. (1983). Margaret Mead and Samoa: The making and unmaking of an anthropological myth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gordan, Joan (Ed.). (1976). Margaret Mead: The complete bibliography, 1925-1975. The Hague: Mouton.

Mead, Margaret. (1928). Coming of age in Samoa. New York: William Morrow.

. (1930). Growing up in New Guinea. New York: William Morrow.

. (1935). Sex and temperament in three primitive societies. New York: William Morrow.

. (1949). Male and female. New York: William Morrow.

. (1972). Blackberry winter: My earlier years. New York: William Morrow.

. (1978). The evocation of psychologically relevant responses in ethnological field work. In George D. Spindler (Ed.), The making of psychological anthropology (pp. 88-139). Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Mead, Margaret

Margaret Mead, 1901–78, American anthropologist, b. Philadelphia, grad. Barnard, 1923, Ph.D. Columbia, 1929. In 1926 she became assistant curator, in 1942 associate curator, and from 1964 to 1969 she was curator of ethnology of the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. After 1954 she served as adjunct professor of anthropology at Columbia. A student and collaborator of Ruth Benedict, she focused her interests on problems of child rearing, personality, and culture. Her fieldwork was carried out primarily among the peoples of Oceania. She was also active with the World Federation for Mental Health. A prolific writer and avid speaker who enjoyed engaging the general public, Mead was instrumental in popularizing the anthropological concept of culture with readers in the United States. She also stressed the need for anthropologists to understand the perspective of women and children. Her works include Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), Growing Up in New Guinea (1930), The Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe (1932), Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935), Male and Female (1949), New Lives for Old: Cultural Transformation in Manus, 1928–1953 (1956), People and Places (1959), Continuities in Cultural Evolution (1964), Culture and Commitment (1970), and a biographical account of her early years, Blackberry Winter (1972). She is also the author of a book for young people, People and Places (1959). She edited Cultural Patterns and Technical Change (1953) and a volume of Ruth Benedict's writings, An Anthropologist at Work (1959, repr. 1966).

See studies by Mead's daughter, M. C. Bateson (1985), and by J. Howard (1985).

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Mead, Margaret

Mead, Margaret (1901–78) An American cultural anthropologist and student of Ruth Benedict. She argued that personality patterns were culturally rather than biologically determined. Her celebrated Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) has been attacked by sociobiologists. It was based on rather insubstantial fieldwork and could be reassessed for reasons which do not discredit her discipline. She pioneered a critical study of gender in Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935). Her many field trips included the South Pacific Islands, New Guinea, and Bali, and are vividly described in the autobiographical Blackberry Winter (1972). She popularized social anthropology, partly by challenging ethnocentrism in the dominant ideology of the United States. She was marginalized by what she saw as the male world of academia, and remained attached to New York City's American Museum of Natural History, moving from assistant to curator. See also CULTURE AND PERSONALITY SCHOOL.

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Mead, Margaret

Mead, Margaret (1901–78) US cultural anthropologist, curator of ethnology (1926–69) at the American Museum of Natural History. Mead conducted her fieldwork in the sw Pacific, particularly Samoa – the subject of her first and most famous work, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928). She was primarily interested in sexuality and adolescence, and helped develop the national-character approach to anthropology.

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