The Trashing of Margaret Mead: Anatomy of an Anthropological Controversy (Studies in American Thought and Culture)

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By Paul Shankman

In 1928 Margaret Mead released Coming of Age in Samoa, a desirable examine of the lives of adolescent women that reworked Mead herself into an instructional big name. In 1983 anthropologist Derek Freeman released a scathing critique of Mead’s Samoan examine, badly harmful her acceptance. Resonating past educational circles, his case opposed to Mead tapped into vital public matters of the Eighties, together with sexual permissiveness, cultural relativism, and the nature/nurture debate. In venues from the New York Times to the television express Donahue, Freeman argued that Mead have been “hoaxed” by way of Samoans whose blameless lies she took at face value.
    In The Trashing of Margaret Mead, Paul Shankman explores the numerous dimensions of the Mead-Freeman controversy because it built publicly and because it performed out privately, together with the non-public relationships, specialist rivalries, and larger-than-life personalities that drove it. supplying a severe point of view on Freeman’s arguments, Shankman studies key questions on Samoan sexuality, the alleged hoaxing of Mead, and the which means of the debate. Why have been Freeman’s arguments so comfortably authorized via pundits outdoors the sphere of anthropology? What did Samoans themselves imagine? Can Mead’s attractiveness be salvaged from the quicksand of controversy? Written in an interesting, transparent type and in accordance with a cautious evaluate of the facts, The Trashing of Margaret Mead illuminates questions of tolerating importance to the academy and beyond.
2010 individual Lecturer in Anthropology on the American Museum of common History
The Trashing of Margaret Mead reminds readers of the pitfalls of academia. It urges students to prevent own assaults and to interact in fit debate. The booklet redeems Mead whereas additionally redeeming the sphere of anthropology. by means of displaying the individuality of the Mead-Freeman case, Shankman areas his persevered self belief in academia, students, and the sector of anthropology.”—H-Net Reviews

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Eleanor Gerber suggested that rape used to be universal in American Samoa besides. 25 Why, then, did Mead no longer document on it extra widely? even supposing she did comprehend of 2 circumstances of rape, as stated in her box notes, Mead didn't view rape as a common challenge within the Manu‘a staff within the Nineteen Twenties. 26 those rapes have been it sounds as if no longer stated to the govt.. Freeman believed that Mead didn't understand adequate approximately Samoan sexual behavior to rfile it adequately. After studying police documents on rape in Western Samoa, Freeman used to be allowed entry to the old information of the excessive court docket in American Samoa for the Nineteen Twenties. He used to be capable of detect numerous circumstances of rape that have been stated then. 27 whilst I requested Freeman in 1984 if any of those situations from the Twenties happened within the Manu‘a crew, he answered that every one of his circumstances got here from the most island of Tutuila and never Manu‘a. 28 Is it attainable that there has been much less rape in Manu‘a at the moment or that it used to be under-reported? 29 The Code of Silence Complicating the quest for exact facts approximately rape is that, on the time that Coming of Age was once written, social conventions in either the US and Samoa restricted discussions of intercourse, together with rape. As famous past, specific descriptions of intercourse in the United States have been thought of immoral and prohibited. Books with over the top sexual content material may be banned. Even the tabloids of the Nineteen Twenties have been cautious to not pass the road for worry that church agencies or the Society for the 168 intercourse, Lies, and Samoans Suppression of Vice may need publishers arrested. this can be one cause that Coming of Age turns out so innocuous this present day; the language of intercourse is muted. In the USA within the Twenties rape was once recognized, feared, and criminalized, yet for propriety’s sake it was once no longer written approximately intimately, simply as different sexual reports weren't. And it was once in basic terms hinted at in movie for many years to return. one of the first American movies to deal at once with rape used to be Outrage, published in 1950. within the early 20th century, rape was once no longer perceived and mentioned within the similar approach that it's at the present time, and plenty of males couldn't know how irritating rape used to be for girls. The offender usually observed himself as having performed not anything improper. the normal male factors for rape have been that the lady “wanted it” or “asked for it” via placing herself in danger. actually, Eleanor Gerber mentioned that those comparable rationales have been provided by way of the Samoan men that she interviewed in American Samoa throughout the Nineteen Seventies. 30 In the USA a code of silence with regards to rape left sufferers with out a voice and with no assistance. As interpreted through police investigators and the courtroom procedure, those reasons through perpetrators have been so believable that sufferers proposal they have been at an advantage final silent instead of exposing themselves to questions about their morals, their gown, and their sexual histories. This is still real this day, as illustrated through the high-profile sexual attack instances concerning Kobe Bryant and William Kennedy Smith. regardless of rape defend legislation that are meant to hinder exam of the rape victim’s prior sexual heritage, the 1st defensive line opposed to the accusation of rape is to query the victim’s behavior.

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