1972 - Samoa I Sisifo, celebrating tenth anniversary of independence
1926 - Mead leaves Samoa after 6 months study of 25 +/- women
Elements of circuitry and Samoa
Coming of Age
audience for her work
Coming of Age - Questions
What was Mead's social network for her work in Samoa?
Where did Mead do major fieldwork?
What do we know about Mead's family?
Growing up can be free, easy, and uncomplicated. . . Romantic love as it occurs in our civilization, inextricably bound up with ideas of monogamy, exclusiveness, jealously and undeviating fidelity, does not occur in Samoa.
Samoans are born into a culture of almost complete individual security. . . They are never without relatives who are always ready, and obligated by custom to aid them. . . There is little individual striving; . . . Food is usually in adequate supply; if it is not, other people, or villages, or even districts, will help out.
Mead's impact was enormous. In time, freer sexual mores were sanctioned. More lenient child-rearing practices were legitimized. Adolescents were vindicated.
Fisher, 1983, p. 92
Margaret Mead's work, errors and all, like that of all of us has to be evaluated in terms of the value system and what was happening to it at the time the work was in progress. . . Those postwar years, the fabled '20s, in New York City provided us . . . opportunities to be a part of a process of change in our society and intellectual life which can never be repeated
I have been a chief only four years and look my hair is grey. . . I must always act as if I were old. I must walk gravely and with measured step. I may not dance except upon most solemn occasions, neither may I play games with the young men. . . Thirty-one people live in my household. For them I must plan, I must find them food and clothing, settle their disputes, arrange their marriages. . . It is hard to be so young and yet be a chief (Mead 1928:36-37).
But the lack of privacy within the houses where mosquito netting marks off purely formal walls about the married couples and the custom of young lovers of using the palm groves for the rendezvous.
Mead, 1928, p. 84
The Samoan puts the burden of amatory success upon the man and believes that women need more initiating, more time for maturing of sexual feeling. A man who fails to satisfy a woman is looked upon as a clumsy, inept blunderer, . . .
Mead, 1928, p. 91
With the exception of the few cases to be discussed in the next chapter, adolescence represented no period of crisis or stress, but was instead an orderly developing of a set of slowly maturing interests and activities.
Mead, 1928, p. 95
April 1923 Flaherty arrives
December 1924 Flaherty leaves
August 1925 Margaret Mead arrives
May 1926 Mead leaves
Moana, means "sea". Film by Robert Flaherty
A love story set in a Samoan community having an abundant environment.
Moana the suitor
Fa'angase village taupou
Samoan culture as Mead might have seen it?
The villagers lived in about a hundred houses, . . . Here men and women played through the long days like children. Time had no meaning. Life was a game, a dance, a frieze on a Grecian urn.
Girl of Samoa (1982)
Illustrates the characteristics of a chiefdom, but in the 1970s, Western Samoa was a nation state
Her aspirations and acceptance of them
Evidence of acculturation
From whose point of view was Girl of Samoa and Samoa I Sisifo told?
What did Samoa I Sisifo say about opportunities for women in Samoa?
A Samoa I Sisifo
A 1972 film celebrating the 10th anniversary of Western Samoan independence.
What changes do you notice as compared with 1925?
The film: Samoa I Sisfo
What is the perspective? etic, emic
What changes in Samoan culture did you observe?
What is important to Samoan culture?
The film is from whose point of view?
What is the Samoan image of themselves?
Contact Change - Impact
take land base -
promote technology -
introduce market -
promote religion -
centralize control -
establish schools -
military control -
assess taxes -
adolescent, female, etic, commoner
adult, male, etic, chief
adult, male, emic, chief
female-male high-low status
Margaret Mead's Major Fieldwork
Samoa - Tau Island
Manus - Pere Village
Chambri, Sepik River
Return to Manus
Film: Margaret Mead and Samoa
What conclusion is reached?
What is the basis of that conclusion?
Does everyone agree with the film's conclusion?
Why are there differences?
Contrast Mead and Freeman's experiences in Samoa.
Samoa, then is a society predicated on rank, in which female virgins are both highly valued and eagerly sought after. Moreover, although these values are especially characteristic of higher levels of the rank structure, they also permeate to its lower levels, so that virtually every family cherishes the virginity of its daughters.
Freeman, 1983, p. 236
In the typical case of forcible rape a girl of from 15 to 19 is alone and away from the settled parts of her village when accosted by a male of from 19 to 23 years of age. Often he is known to the girl, and he believes her to be a virgin.
Freeman, 1983, p. 248
(Freeman & Human Dev Rpt)
. . . I have yet to meet a Samoan who agrees with Mead's assertion that adolescence in Samoan society is smooth, untroubled, and unstressed.
Freeman, 1983, p. 259
Sexual Behavior Issues in Samoa
virginity test at weddings
village ceremonial virgin
We are thus confronted in the case of Margaret Mead's Samoan researches with an instructive example of how, as evidence is sought to substantiate a cherished doctrine, the deeply held beliefs of those involved may lead them to unwittingly into error.
Freeman, 1983, p. 292
Cloning of Humans
In 1943 Davis and Havighurst said, "Indeed, the culture of middle-class Europeans and Americans probably exerts more severe pressure upon the upon the young child . . . than any other people in the world." Whiting and Child conclude after a cross-cultural comparison, "Davis and Havighurst have exaggerated, but only a little. . ."
Whiting & Child 1940s child-rearing study, 50, Chicago, middle-class families
Our reference group then consists of 50 middle-class families living in Chicago in the early forties.
American weaning practices are above average in severity.
Our American middle-class group was judged to be quite extreme in the severity of toilet training.
Sexual Training: Our American middle-class group . . . are given the same rating by our judges as the most extreme of the primitive societies.
. . . American middle-class is less indulgent and more severely socializes with repect to heterosexual play that the average of primitive societies.
In 1925, Margaret Mead, tested "Stanley Hall's adolescent stress hypothesis--that is, the characteristic rebelliousness, turmoil, and mood swings of adolescence were part of the innate biological script, a fixed stage in the human maturational process."
N. Scheper-Hughes, 1984, p. 85.
Mead also introduced the concept of cultural relativism ". . . at a time when racist thinking was rampant in American society. . . 'Survival of the fittest' became the rallying cry behind the eugenics movement, a racist immigration policy, and miscegenation laws . . ."
N. Scheper-Hughes, 1984, p. 86.
"In the vastly popular and popularized sociobiology, . . . we have the attempt to explain virtually all of human social institutions as responses to a few biological imperatives."
N. Scheper-Hughes, 1984, p. 86.
. . . I have decided to go to Tau, one of the three small islands . . . about 100 miles from here. . . They are much more primitive and unspoiled than any other part of Samoa. . . The chief, Tufele, who is also district governor of Manu'a, was educated in Honolulu and speaks excellent English and is probably the most cooperative chief in American Samoa.
Mead, 1977, p. 29
Furthermore, when I do use real informants and sit down and ask questions by the hour, I can't pay them, for they are tool haughty. Instead I have to give gifts. And there is a limit to that because they have to give a return gift in addition to the information. So gift-giving becomes a subtle way of impoverishing someone--especially me. So my noble and commoner informants all prefer endless little favors.
Mead, 1977, p. 50
So there is no abrupt transition from the little girl who bobs awkwardly to the young lady who is expected to be at the center of the ballroom or from the boy to the man--as in our society.
Mead, 1977, p. 53
From Lowell D. Holmes, Samoan Village 1987, p. 172
I found that Margaret Mead, because she was young in a society that venerates age and a women in a society where major political and ceremonial roles are in the hands of men, was at a great disadvantage . . . In the study of young Samoan women, however, I believe she was able to establish excellent rapport because of her age and gender.
Village chiefs of Safune, after watching the film stoically, they said, "It is fa'a Samoa" (authentic Samoan culture)."
Lowell D. Holmes, AA, 1979:736
Hypotheses to explain Samoan adolescence
Mead's analysis is accurate for the time period
Freeman's refutation is accurate
Refutation of Mead's Work - Facts
* testimony of contemporary
* young women did not get
* recollections of informant
* recreational lying
* what is it to be Samoan in 1925 versus 1972
* Mead and Freeman's
network of informants
|female @ 25||male @ 23|
|adolescent women||male chiefs|
|did not return||returned twice|
|American Samoa||Western Samoa|
|limited language||good language|
From the film: Margaret Mead and Samoa
"Mead makes us look like we behave as animals."
"You took away our humanity."
From Paul Shankman, "The History of Samoan Sexual Conduct and the Mead Freeman Controversy, American Anthropologist 1996:563
". . . the taupou system attenuated considerably from the 1830s"
". . . by the end of the 19th century a number of taupou were eloping. . ."
"By the early 20th century, fewer taupou were appointed;"
". . . the taupou system was in decay."
from Shankman 1996:564
"Mead's argument is more in accord with the data presented in this article than Freeman's."
"Coming of Age does contain errors of fact and interpretation, as well as overstatements. Given that it was a popular book published in 1928, this is not surprising."