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Samoa (Mead, Freeman and Truth)

In: Historical Events

Submitted By laurapragnell
Words 570
Pages 3
Student ID: 1080563
Module: Debates and Controversies
Assessment: Is the Issue of ‘Truth’ Important in Evaluating the Mead-Freeman controversy? Give Reasons for Your Answer.
Class Teacher: Benedetta Rossi and Max Bolt
Word Count: 3000
Paper ID:
Is the Issue of ‘Truth’ Important in Evaluating the Mead-Freeman controversy? Give Reasons for Your Answer. ‘All that man can do for humanity is to further the truth, whether it be sweet or bitter’ (Boas, Cited in Heimans, F, 1987, [14:03]).
Freeman says that although their conclusions differed he hoped there would be no bad feelings, Mead replied; ‘Anyway, what matters is the work’ (Freeman, Cited in Heimans, F, 1987, [16:30])
Mead’s findings are correct and insightful. Although Freeman suggests, with evidence of a letter from Holmes, that Holmes’ findings in fact contradicted Mead’s work and that he himself had recognised this but been forced to lighten his criticism of her work to save the discipline. Holmes argues he said this in the letter as he was angry with Mead for a poor review she published on one of his books (Freeman and Holmes, Cited in Heimans, F, 1987, [27:30]).
If Mead’s findings and suggestions about Samoans promiscuous lives were correct then why were there no recorded pregnancies out of wedlock? Mead herself highlighted the Samoans fertility (O’Meara, Cited in Heimans, F, 1987, [35:05]).
Mead in fact set herself up to hear what she wanted. She was an American talking to the missionaries and government and trying to befriend the local girls. They were in a position to trick her or not in a position to tell her what she didn’t like. So they told her what they thought she wanted to hear, that they were free and promiscuous (Jarve, Cited in Heimans, F, 1987, [35:51]).
Meads daughter highlights her ‘warm, informal, day after day relationship that she had with those teenage girls. I think the idea of a systematic sustained distortion, is extremely implausible’ (Catherine Bateson, Cited in Heimans, F, 1987, [36:40]).
‘One of the main forms of entertainment in Samoa is recreational lying’, the girls were pulling Mead’s leg (O’Meara, Cited in Heimans, F, 1987, [37:05]).
86 year old, Fa’apua’a Fa’amu was one of the girls in Mead’s original study. ‘We girls used to pinch each other, we’d tell her we were out with the boys, we were only joking but she took it seriously’ (Faumu, Cited in Heimans, F, 1987, [40:00]).

‘The problem of how Anthropologists get to know what they know and write in the first place- how they authorise themselves, to borrow Michel de Certeau’s clever phrase, ‘to speak in the name of the real’ (Brady, I, 1983, 908).
Freeman ‘claims to privilege over Mead in ‘scientific’ methods’ (Brady, I, 1983, 908).
The debate adds ‘momentum’ to the ‘Practical problems of ‘truth’ in anthropological expression’ (Brady, I, 1983, 908-909).

Margaret Mead was hoaxed. Fa’apua’a Fa’amu, Meads travelling companion, and her friend hoaxed mead about the ‘sexual mores of the Samoans. Of this Mead appears to have been totally oblivious’. She never deliberately miss represented Samoans, she was just hoaxed (Freeman, D, 1999).
‘I am leaving here with a clear conscience’, these words of Mead show she was hoaxed and felt she knew the truth (Freeman, D, 1999).

‘Holmes (1967: 1) thought it quiet true that Margaret finds pretty much what she wants to find(Freeman, D, 1987)

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