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Middle American

Edmund Leach, 7 March 1985

Margaret Mead: A Life 
by Jane Howard.
Harvill, 527 pp., £12.95, October 1984, 0 00 272515 0
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With a Daughter’s Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson 
by Mary Catherine Bateson.
Morrow, 242 pp., $15.95, July 1984, 0 688 03962 6
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... books are, in part, by-products of the furore that was generated in 1983 by the publication of Derek Freeman’s Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth and I had better declare where I stand. I have known Derek Freeman for nearly forty years. I consider that his criticism of ...

The Punishment of Margaret Mead

Marilyn Strathern, 5 May 1983

Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth 
by Derek Freeman.
Harvard, 379 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 674 54830 2
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... intermittently preoccupied him for forty years, including many more in Samoa than Mead ever had. Derek Freeman argues that in being ideologically committed to representing Samoan emotional (and sexual) life as ‘graceful, easy, diffuse’, Mead did not face up to the true nature of this dignified, authoritarian and punishing society. Essentially he is ...

Culture and Personality

Caroline Humphrey, 31 August 1989

Margaret Mead: A Life of Controversy 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Penguin, 96 pp., £3.99, May 1989, 0 14 008760 5
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Ruth Benedict: Stranger in the Land 
by Margaret Caffrey.
Texas, 432 pp., $24.95, February 1989, 0 292 74655 5
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... of a modern woman’ should be reduced to a put-down. The final chapter frankly takes sides with Derek Freeman, Mead’s posthumous opponent in a revival of the nature/nurture debate. Grosskurth describes him as ‘extremely brave’ for challenging in 1983 Mead’s first fieldwork in the Twenties, which had proposed that in Samoan culture, unlike that ...

Putting things in boxes

Adam Kuper: Margaret Mead, 24 May 2007

To Cherish the Life of the World: Selected Letters of Margaret Mead 
edited by Margaret Caffrey and Patricia Francis.
Basic Books, 429 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 0 465 00815 1
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... hand, she conceded that her two husbands were much better linguists than she was. After her death, Derek Freeman launched an attack on her apprentice field study in Samoa, treating it, absurdly, as the foundation on which the whole edifice of 20th-century relativism rested. Certainly by comparison with the contemporary studies of Malinowski – or even of ...

The Swaddling Thesis

Thomas Meaney: Margaret Mead, 6 March 2014

Return from the Natives: How Margaret Mead Won the Second World War and Lost the Cold War 
by Peter Mandler.
Yale, 366 pp., £30, March 2013, 978 0 300 18785 4
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... the Blackfoot Indians. Since her death in 1978, Mead’s reputation has foundered. In the 1980s, Derek Freeman, a right-wing Australian anthropologist, set off a brief frenzy in the culture wars when he tried to argue that her Samoan fieldwork was botched. But the more damaging criticisms have come from anthropologists to Mead’s left. They blame her ...

Chianti in Khartoum

Nick Laird: Louis MacNeice, 3 March 2011

Letters of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Jonathan Allison.
Faber, 768 pp., £35, May 2010, 978 0 571 22441 8
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... the Troubles, critically important to a celebrated generation of Northern Irish poets, poets like Derek Mahon, Michael Longley and Muldoon. These writers were led to him by content but stayed for the style. Auden or Eliot’s influence can be overwhelming for a writer, their tone is so settled, their territory staked out so thoroughly. But a novice poet can ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Julian Assange, 6 March 2014

... fits the blacksploitation theme I’m hoping for with the film of my life. I want Morgan Freeman to play me.’ He began stripping off and I saw he had a pair of Tesco’s trackie bottoms under his old suit. He donned each suit in turn and asked us to tell him how he looked. He was anxious to know if they fitted properly. ‘Isn’t this one a bit ...

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