Reseach Paper of Margaret Mead's fieldwork in Samoa and Her Contributions to the Sexual Revolution

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Research paper
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Margaret Mead (16th Dec 1901 15th Nov 1978), was a renowned anthropologist who was recognized for her role as an author as well as the speaker in the mass media between the 1960s and 1970s. She attained her undergraduate degree at Barnard College in NYC while her Masters and the Ph.D. degree from Columbia University. Margaret's role as an anthropologist is much more significant due to her much-needed contradictory perspectives in the anthropological study. This is evident because of her identity as a young woman together with her topic that she had the interest in discussing. Mead was noble and always controversial academic that promoted the anthropology insight in the Western Culture as well as the modern America. Her reports dealt with the attitude towards sex in Southeast Asian and South Pacific traditional culture that shaped the 1960s-sexual revolution. She was advocating for broadening sexual customs within a traditional western religious custom (Lutkehaus and Mead, 142)

In 1925, Margaret Mead traveled to the America Samoa, South Pacific territory, and she wrote her encounters and experience in the book Coming of Age in Samoa (1928). She introduced the book by stating, As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.. (Mead p.1) She investigated to explore whether adolescent was a universally stressful time or traumatic because of the biological issues or whether the adolescent experience relied on individuals cultural background. Nearly nine months of researching, observing and interviewing the Samoan people, together with administering them with psychological tests, Mead determined that the adolescent was neither a stressful stage among the Samoan girls since the Samoan customary patterns were distinct to the ones in the United States. She published her findings in Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), which was a clear, descriptive account if the Samoa adolescent life that later emerged to be greatly popular.

"adolescence represented no period of crisis or stress, but was instead an orderly developing a set of slowly maturing interests and activities. (Mead p. 107)

Her book, in Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), was available in a number of the editions in different languages, making Mead famous. A major reason that made the book most popular is that Mead had reviewed the introduction together with the conclusion of her first manuscript, adding up two chapters that associated directly with the inferences of her discoveries for child upbringing in the United States.

Mead vowed that Because our civilization is woven of so many diverse strands, the ideas which any one group accepts will be found to contain numerous contradictions. (Mead p.1of 11)

Meads authoritative evidence promoted sexual promiscuity. Due to the availability of the antibiotics with regards to the controlling of the contagious diseases and pills that could control conceptions, the sexual revolution began, until the time AIDS stimulated second thoughts. Meads studies affected the gender studies, as well as the feminist childcare agenda, in preventing biological impacts both in the emotions and behaviors of the infants together with the mothers, partly relied on her materials.

In her research on adolescent, Margaret's contribution in the field was of the essence in dispelling the myth that adolescent was known to be a stage of anxiety and tension because of many biological variations. Contrary to her work, it was true that adolescent can rather be a time of relative carefree ease, as shown in the Samoa culture. In this case, Margarete received recognition for the 1960s-sexual revolution, for her highly significant nature of work.

Margaret Mead depicted a tranquil island of Eden, where people lived in Utopia harmony, having, minimal competition with one another, a different absence of class and most decisively, no draconian moral regulations that limited people's sexual conduct. Instead, teenagers in Samoa had numerous partners and were even encouraged, to involve themselves in this free love South Seas that had hook-up culture. As admirably written by Margaret Mead, a young Samoan girl, thrusts virtuosity away from her. All of her interest is expended on clandestine sexual adventures. Natural law and Christian morality, it appeared to be nothing but a hoax.

During her study, Mead discovered that the children of Samoa easily moved form into the adult world of work and sexuality, as compared to the children in the United States, whereby remaining Victorian limitation on the sexual character as well as the elevating children separation from the productive world led to the youth an inessentially difficult time. In her book, Sex and Temperament (1935), Mead extended that, the western mostly upheld belief in innate masculinity and femininity favored only a few of these troubles

Despite it being a popular achievement and its considerations as a scholarly material for the undergraduate anthropology classes, Coming of Age in Samoa has faced differing degrees of criticism for many years. Mead's research methodology was criticized by several scholars who were also anthropologists. Meads criticism arouses due to her failure of differentiating her personal views from the views from her ethnographic account of Samoan life together with making a quick generalization of the short time research. Some of the evidence published have been criticized by other anthropologists Derek Freeman, they stated that Mead romanticized the life of Samoa and modulating evidence opposite to her major argument. Furthermore, some of the Samoans have discovered that the Mead description of the Samoan sexuality as offensive. On top of her well-known volume of Samoan adolescent, Mead composed a more complex account of Samoan culture titled The Social Organization of Manu'a (1930). One of the most criticized works particularly in the writings is when she drew broad conclusions without providing credible evidence. Although she regularly reacted promptly to the criticism, she was considerate of the likelihood of observers prejudice in her field study. Mainly because of the criticism she faces, she opted to preserve her whole field notes together with the rest of the materials for the other researchers to look up and interpret (Mead, and Textor, p.2)


In this case, the field of anthropology was much more significant due to the Margarete Mead contribution. This is because of their varying focus that she demonstrated in cultures that she has studied with respect to adolescence as well as child-rearing. Furthermore, she was in the capacity of bringing publicity to anthropology as a field because of the work she had published to the public. This enabled the anthropology to develop in popularity as well as credible as the academic field that she had established to affect the society. Mead was also amongst the many male anthropologists and up to today, her influence is still experienced in the American Society.

Mead is amongst the few of the earliest American anthropologists to use the theories and techniques from modern psychology in understanding culture. She argues that cultures highlight some aspects of human potential and the cost of others. Meads interest was more on the way culture standardize personality. Her new researchers comprised with the viewing of the different cultural expectations from female and males, and early effort at comprehending what are referred to as "gender roles." However, some of her conclusions have been doubted both at the time she was a life and after her death


Works Cited

Lutkehaus, Nancy. Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. Print.

Mead, Margaret, and Robert B. Textor. The World Ahead: An Anthropologist Anticipates the Future. New York: Berghahn Books, 2004. Print.

Mead, Margaret. Coming of age in Samoa: A psychological study of primitive youth for western civilization. Blue ribbon books, 1936.

Mead, Margaret. Coming of age in Samoa: A study of adolescence and sex in primitive societies. Penguin books, 1954.


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