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Margaret Mead was an internationally renowned American anthropologist who was born in 1901 and died in 1978. Raised by a family of successful intellectuals, Margaret Mead developed the skills and passion necessary to become extremely successful in her field as well.
Margaret Mead was saturated by the academic pursuits of her family, which exposed her to the scientific method at a young age and prepared her for her own invaluable contributions to the human store of knowledge. Her father, Edward Sherwood Mead, was a professor of finance at Wharton business school. Mead’s mother, Emily Fogg Mead, held a doctoral degree in sociology. Margaret Mead's grandmother was a school teacher who began instructing Margaret at a young age. Consequently, Mead spent her childhood recording detailed observations of her siblings and their development, along with other analyses of the natural and human world.
Margaret Mead is considered to be a pioneer in cross-cultural research. Most of her research focused on male and female sex roles, human temperament, child development, and how these themes differ between cultures. She sought to discover a truth in her own culture by comparing and contrasting American culture with that of other societies.
Margaret Mead was extremely curious about the problems that American adolescents face in their transition to adulthood, which led to her famous research conducted in Samoa in the 1920s. Fieldwork with Samoan girls between nine and 20 years of age led Margaret Mead to conclude that adolescent rebellion and difficulties are not inherent in all human beings, but in fact differ extensively between cultures. Mead found that Samoan teenagers passed to adulthood gracefully because of the values of their culture, which caused an uproar in America at the time.
Between 1928 and 1972, Margaret Mead authored ten nonfiction books, as well as a memoir of her life. Meads books are: Coming of Age in Samoa, Growing Up in New Guinea, The Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, And Keep Your Powder Dry, Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World, New Lives for Old: Cultural Transformation in Manus, People and Places, Continuities in Cultural Evolution, Culture and Commitment, and Blackberry Winter: A Memoir.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who was Margaret Mead and why is she significant in anthropology?
Margaret Mead was a pioneering cultural anthropologist who gained fame for her work on the socialization of children and gender roles in various cultures. Born on December 16, 1901, she is best known for her studies and publications on the peoples of Oceania, particularly her book "Coming of Age in Samoa" (1928), which was groundbreaking in its detailed observation of adolescent behavior in different cultures. Her work significantly influenced the sexual revolution of the 1960s and contributed to the field of anthropology by emphasizing the importance of culture in shaping human behavior.
What were some of Margaret Mead's most influential works?
Margaret Mead's most influential works include "Coming of Age in Samoa" (1928), where she examined the lives of adolescent Samoan girls, and "Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies" (1935), where she explored variations in gender roles among different cultures in New Guinea. These works challenged Western perceptions of gender and sexuality and suggested that culture plays a key role in the development of personality and social norms.
How did Margaret Mead's fieldwork in Samoa impact our understanding of adolescence?
Margaret Mead's fieldwork in Samoa, detailed in her book "Coming of Age in Samoa," had a profound impact on our understanding of adolescence. She argued that the experience of adolescence varied greatly between cultures and was not universally a time of stress and turmoil, as was commonly believed in Western societies. According to Mead, Samoan adolescents experienced a more relaxed social atmosphere, which led to fewer conflicts during their transition to adulthood. This work suggested that cultural context is crucial in shaping the experiences of young people.
What was Margaret Mead's approach to studying cultures, and how did it differ from her contemporaries?
Margaret Mead's approach to studying cultures was characterized by immersive fieldwork and a focus on the qualitative aspects of human life. Unlike many of her contemporaries who favored grand theories or armchair speculation, Mead lived among the people she studied, learning their languages and observing their daily practices. She emphasized the importance of considering each culture on its own terms rather than through the lens of Western biases, which was a departure from the ethnocentric views prevalent at the time.
What is Margaret Mead's legacy in the field of anthropology today?
Margaret Mead's legacy in anthropology is enduring. She is remembered for her methodological contributions, her advocacy for cultural relativism, and her ability to communicate complex anthropological ideas to the public. Mead's work continues to be a touchstone for discussions on cultural diversity, gender roles, and the role of the individual in society. Despite some criticisms and debates over her findings, her influence extends beyond anthropology, affecting fields such as psychology, sociology, and education.