Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth, by Derek Freeman

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In 1983, Derek Freeman published Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth, where he argued (on bases that were later questioned) that Mead was misled by native informants and ignored evidence contrary to her depiction of Samoan life.


Details aside, a major lesson of this controversy is that Samoan culture contains paradoxes and contradictions, which are, as Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1984, 90) put it, “culturally structured but never actually resolved.” Aggressive and harmonious behavioral poles and values may function in the same individuals and groups depending on circumstances. Mead therefore captured a Samoan truth, not the Samoan truth.

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

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Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth, by Derek Freeman

You can learn more about the controversy surrounding Mead's research and Freeman's criticism on his obituary, published on the New York Times in August 5th, 2001:

Derek Freeman, Who Challenged Margaret Mead on Samoa, Dies at 84

There's also this documentary, directed by Frank Heimans in 1987, that tackles on the controversy. It even features footage of interviews with Margaret Mead and Derek Freeman:
Margaret Mead and Samoa (1988)

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Published in 15/01/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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