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Mead and Samoa

Mead and Samoa





Monday, April 4
Read all the front matter and Chapters I and II of Coming of Age in Samoa. Come to class prepared to do a short writing assignment on how you would characterize Mead's ethnographic writing style and in particular how it differs from the others you have read. For the rest of the class, I will lecture on Margaret Mead's intellectual milieu in the New York of the 1920s and 1930s.

Tuesday, April 5
Read Margaret Mead's account of her fieldwork in chapter 11, "Samoa: The Adolescent Girl," from her autobiography, Blackberry Winter. Come to class ready to write on how you think the circumstances of fieldwork that Mead describes in this chapter might have influenced what she wrote about Samoa in Coming of Age. I will lecture on some background about Samoa and why Mead went there instead of somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 6
Read the description of Mead from her daughter Mary Catherine, in chapter 2, "Baby Pictures," from Bateson's memoir With a Daughter's Eye. Professor Miriam Kahn, who worked as Margaret Mead's research assistant, will come to class and tell us what Mead was like and how this helps us understand Mead's work.

Thursday, April 7 Quiz Sections
Read chapters III through VIII of Coming of Age. In section, you will discuss the question of what Mead was trying to say and to whom.

Friday, April 8
Read chapters IX through XII of Coming of Age. Come prepared to do a short writing assignment on what Margaret Mead means by "culture." For the remainder of class, I will lecture on Mead's idea of culture and how it influenced anthropology.

Monday, April 11
Read chapters XII and XIV of Coming of Age. Also, over the weekend, find a grandmother or some other woman over 70, and ask her to free associate on the topic of Margaret Mead. Come to class ready to write on, and then participate in a moderated free-for-all on what you think Coming of Age (which became a best-seller) meant to Americans, particularly American women, at the time it was written.

Tuesday, April 12
Today is a day to talk about writing, so we will not do any writing. Instead, we will go over
  • Some good and bad examples of your writing on some of the previous in-class assignments
  • The content of the essay assignments on Mead, which will be due on Thursday, April 28.
  • Some general principles about writing this kind of paper.
Wednesday, April 13
Read chapters 16 and 17, "Sexual Mores and Behavior" and "Adolescence," of Derek Freeman's attack on Mead, Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth. Come to class prepared to write a short in-class piece on whether Freeman was a) accurate and b) fair. I will first give some background on Freeman, and then talk about Freeman and the way he put together his argument against Mead and why.

Thursday, April 14 Quiz Sections
Read materials from the popular press in reaction to Freeman:
Come to section ready to participate in a discussion about whether and how you think these debates from the 1980s are still relevant to our current social-issues politics. Is there a Democratic and a Republican reading of Margaret Mead?

Friday, April 15
Read Bradd Shore, "Paradox Regained," Martin Silverman, "Our Great Deception," parts of a symposium in the American Anthropologist evaluating Freeman's critique of Mead, as well as anthropologist George Marcus's review in the New York Times. Come to class ready to write on your own reactions to these articles, in light of what you have read by and about Mead previously. I will lecture on my own personal opinion of what happened in the controversy.

Monday, April 18
Read the methodological appendices of Coming of Age and pages 80-97 of Mead's technical monograph on Samoa, The Social Organization of Manua. Come to class ready to write a short piece on the differences in style between Coming of Age and The Social Organization. I will lecture on Mead's methodology and whether it would be accepted in anthropology today.

Tuesday, April 19
Read writings and remarks by Samoan public figures and scholars about Mead and the other anthropologists who have worked on Samoa:
Today we will have a panel of actual experts, i.e. Samoan People, who have read and thought about Margaret Mead and about Coming of Age. Participants have been contacted; names TBA awaiting confirmation.

Wednesday, April 20
Read the concluding section from Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, where she attempts to draw scientific conclusions from her comparative field studies. Come prepared to write a short piece on your reactions to yesterday's Samoan panel. I will lecture on Mead as a scientist.

Thursday, April 21 Quiz Sections
Read some original materials from Margaret Mead's career as a cultural critic:
Several of these come from an online exhibit about Mead at the Library of Congress. You might want to browse this site in addition to looking at the specific materials linked here:
Friday, April 22
No extra reading for today. Today is all about my own lecture, summing up Margaret Mead and Coming of Age in terms of writing style, substantive message, popular influence, and why there is no equivalent figure in America today.