- Series: Studies in American Thought and Culture
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (December 3, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0299234541
- ISBN-13: 978-0299234546
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Trashing of Margaret Mead: Anatomy of an Anthropological Controversy (Studies in American Thought and Culture) 1st Edition
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"[A] balanced portrait of this complex and often vitriolic anthropological controversy.Well researched and thoroughly documented, this should be of interest both to anthropologists and to educated lay readers with interests in Mead and her legacy."—Library Journal
“[Shankman] convincingly rebuts Freeman’s certitude that Mead suffered a ‘fateful hoaxing’ in Samoa that changed the course of anthropology and, by implication, society itself.”—Colorado Arts and Sciences
"A fine, funny, discriminating, and at times quite disturbing book. . . . Shankman shows with great gusto and clarity that U.S. media and many academics were predisposed to accept Freeman's claims, however fraudulent. . . . Should be used in college courses ranging from media studies to cultural anthropology to women's studies to Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific. Graduate-level seminars could be wrapped around the many significant issues raised here. Shankman's bulldog-like dedication for many years is as laudable as his prose style is engaging."—James Hamar, The Feminist Review
“Shankman’s insights and conclusions are real contributions that will no doubt energise future research. . . . It is the best coverage of the ‘Mead thing’ that we have.”—Peter Hempenstall, The Journal of Pacific History
About the Author
Paul Shankman, professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has conducted fieldwork in Samoa periodically since 1966. He has written a number of articles on the Mead-Freeman controversy.
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It would only have been fateful if Freeman’s long-running misrepresentation of the centrality of a popular book, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), which, according to him was central to establishing the importance of culture for American anthropologists (Freeman refused to recognize lots of evidence either that culturalism was dominant in American anthropologist before Margaret Mead went to Samoa, that her popular book was criticized by American cultural anthropologists, and not used, let alone central, in the training of American anthropologist graduate students). Paul Shankman goes over some of the evidence for the peripheralness within anthropology (quite different from her prominence in periodicals like Redbook) of Mead and of her first book.
He also demonstrates that Mead’s book did not rely on those two women, but on informants younger than they were, that she had gathered data and was not in the panic to come up with something that Freeman claims, that (as usual) Freeman cherry-picked snippets from interviews with one of the two supposed hoaxers (Fa’apua’a Fa’amû), made insupportable claims for the perfectness of her memory, and ignored statements in the interview that undercut his claims even though the interview he commissioned was filled with very leading questions he supplied. She said that Mead did not ask her questions about her own sexual conduct or about Samoan girls’ sexual conduct. (Shankman elaborated on the evidence afainst “hoaxing” in a Feb. 2013 article in Current Anthropology.)
Shankman also patiently works through evidence that Freeman was wrong about what Freeman claimed was the central issue (ceremonial virgins), ignored data contrary to his theses, and that his portrayal of Samoans is not beloved by contemporary Samoans.
In Shankman’s account of Freeman before he made sensational claims to have refuted Mead’s ethnography (though Freeman largely ignored the report of her ethnography aimed at professionals, Social Organization of Manu’a) there is mention of two Freeman psychotic breaks (breakdowns with considerable evidence of erotophobia), one in Sarawak, one in Samoa, and the invective (which strikes me as psychotic) Freeman deployed against anyone providing evidence against his sensationalized claims. Actually, Shankman could have drawn on more evidence of Freeman’s overkill and attempts to intimidate any criticism, not only in regards to Samoa but in regards to his earlier sweeping claims about the utter uniqueness of the group he studied on Sarawak, the Iban. Freeman’s m.o. was totally contrary to what he preached as subjecting one’s claims to evidence contradicting them. I cannot think of any alleged scientist who made such vicious and personal (ad hominem, and with even greater glee, ad feminem) attacks in the course of disputes.
Though Mead was guilty of overgeneralizing, not least about American culture, Freeman made rasher overgeneralizations about Iban, Samoan, and American anthropological cultures, and his interpretation of Samoan culture has not been accepted as valid or adequate either by Samoans or by Polynesianists. For me, Shankman’s restrained book really concludes the mostly unedifying attack Freeman launched in 1983 and the preposterous claims that Mead was hoaxed that Freeman spun in his 1999 book.
Shankman does not consider the role of the neo-con vision that was particularly dominant when Freeman’s book appeared (in the Reagan-Thatcher era) in publicizing Freeman’s claims. I don’t know what Freeman’s political views were, but those who welcomed his anti-feminism and dark view of human nature in mass (masser than anthropology) media were distinctly neo-con.
Kathy & Tom Jones