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Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon Hardcover – November 23, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As an anthropologist who has herself conducted research in Papua New Guinea, Lutkehaus (Zarias Fire) is well positioned to evaluate renowned forerunner Margaret Meads cultural influence in 20th-century American society. Her intriguing thesis examines Mead as a representative figure of public concerns and desires—and as a prism through which to view anthropologys influence on the rapidly changing contours of American life. The argument remains too familiar and superficial, however, to be of much force. Lutkehaus stresses Meads early media-savvy participation in the construction of a public persona—from quintessential 1920s flapper to model modern woman, Grandmother to the World to emblem of gay rights. Mead had an instinct for resonant social commentary and notoriety. The author emphasizes (as do many Mead biographers) the connection between her subjects personal life and her academic and popular writing (beginning with her highly influential crossover studies of Samoan adolescence and sexuality), but is too protective of her subject to allow a nuanced reading of Meads precise methodology or political liberalism, or their notable entanglement in the relationship between Meads version of cultural relativism, the new field of applied anthropology and American hegemony. (Dec.)
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"Lutkehaus provides a fair and fascinating account of her multifaceted subject, making this as intriguing and thought-provoking a biography as one could wish for."--Guy Cook, Times Higher Education

"Lutkehaus effectively and perceptively examines Mead's impact (both subtle and overt) on anthropology and American popular culture from the 1928 publication of her first book, Coming of Age in Samoa, to the present day. With its fresh approach, this work is a valuable addition to the body of literature on Mead. Highly recommended for anthropology and popular culture collections in academic and large public libraries."--Elizabeth Salt, Library Journal

"[Nancy C. Lutkehaus has] written an illuminating book--more a sociohistorical portrait than a birth-to-death biography--that examines how Margaret Mead became an American icon."--Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History

"In 1972, college student Lutkehaus worked a year for Margaret Mead. Experiencing the variety of Mead's roles as a mature anthropologist herself, she decided to analyze that best-known U.S. anthropologist. Her book presents Mead as American icon, modern woman, anthropologist, woman scientist, celebrity, and posthumous public anthropologist."--A.B. Kehoe, Choice

"For those interested in the history of science, the nature of celebrity and fame, and the roles of women in anthropology, Lutkehaus's volume is a welcome and important addition to our understanding of the place of professions and noteworthy professionals in American society and culture."--Nancy J. Parezo, American Historical Review

"Lutkehaus's engagingly written study of the iconic status of Margaret Mead in America is indispensable for thinking about the relationship between public intellectual academics and broader cultural trends."--Neil Mclaughlin, Contexts

"This book is perfectly focused, richly researched, filled with incidents and evidence and insightful interviews, and written as a story that certainly held this reader. It is a treasure, full of history and insights. . . . I think Mead would have liked this solidly researched and convincingly interpreted book, and I think she deserved it. I think she would think that she chose well when she chose Lutkehaus as her assistant half a century ago."--Dorothy K. Billings, Current Anthropology

"In this wonderfully illustrated book, Lutkehaus . . . carries off the narrative and the analysis of Mead's 'iconicity' with learning, clarity, and panache."--Howard Brick, Museum Anthropology Review

"This meticulously researched book makes a significant contribution to the history of twentieth century American liberal thought and public opinion. . . . The book is a great read, entertaining as well as informative. It makes skilful and pointed use of photographs, advertisements, illustrations and cartoons to amplify its subject."--Penelope Schoeffel Meleisea, Pacific Affairs

"For readers interested in scientists as public intellectuals, celebrities, popularizers, social activists, and academic superstars, Lutkehaus's book offers an important refinement of a discussion begun in Rae Goodell's The Visible Scientists."--Virginia Yans, ISIS


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