We’re thrilled with the recent announcement that, in agreement with the Library of Congress, Alexander Street is adding selections from the Margaret Mead Papers – including curated segments from the original fieldwork of the world-renowned anthropologist – to its Anthropological Fieldwork Online collection. Anthropological Fieldwork Online digitizes and brings together the previously unpublished fieldwork of key early 20th-century scholars whose work helped to shape the theories and methods that are foundational to curriculum today.
Jenna Makowski, Anthropology Editor at Alexander Street, spoke to us about why this is such an extraordinary opportunity for students and researchers.
Makowski explained that anthropological research is a fully immersive experience. Scholars go into the field, living and working with a community for months or years, gathering observations on culture, language and interpersonal interactions. This fieldwork becomes the basis for later dissertations, lectures, articles and published ethnographies.
Mead began her fieldwork career in Samoa 1925 and 1926, focusing on cultural influences on gender and child-rearing. She published her first ethnography Coming of Age in Samoa, which is part of Anthropology Online, Alexander Street’s core collection of published ethnographies, in 1928. But the bulk of her research has been unpublished, accessible only via research trips to the Library of Congress.
“By publishing this archive of Mead’s papers, including her original field notes, we are making available the research/fieldwork that went into the published ethnography,” Makowski said. “This allows students to observe the full iterative research process of an influential anthropologist, from the field to final publication, and to study how those original, raw primary source notes were developed into broader theoretical frameworks and publications.”
“And, of course, Mead’s publication, Coming of Age in Samoa,” Makowski added, “is still core reading in contemporary anthropology courses.”
“In terms of research value, Mead’s work, particularly her early research in Samoa, has a history of attracting scholarly critique and debate,” Makowski noted.
She cites a widely-read criticism of Mead’s methodologies published by New Zealand-born anthropologist Derek Freeman, which spurred a renewed interest in Mead’s early fieldwork in the 1980s.
A series of responses to Freeman’s critique, both supportive and deconstructive, have emerged over the subsequent decades. These critiques continue to be published, which Makowski sees as “a clear indication that Mead’s work still pulses with life and possibility.”
“Continued dialogue around Mead’s research is healthy, honest and necessary,” Makowski said, “as today’s anthropologists take on the responsibility of unraveling and grappling with broader questions around ethics and the inherent colonial undercurrent of early anthropological studies.”
“By opening access to the original primary sources at the heart of the debate,” she concluded, “we can enable that dialogue to grow in informed and enhanced ways.”
Alexander Street also offers secondary materials about Margaret Mead, including many films and audio recordings, such as:
Margaret Mead, Portrait of a Friend (Ethnographic Video Online)
An Interview with Margaret Mead (Smithsonian Global Sound)
Margaret Mead: An Observer Observed (Ethnographic Video Online)
These resources can also be supplemented with materials from ProQuest collections, such as
Francis, Patricia, Margaret Caffrey, Mary Catherine Bateson, and Patricia Francis. To Cherish the Life of the World, edited by Patricia Francis, et al., Basic Books, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Maguire, Kate. Margaret Mead, edited by Kate Maguire, Springer, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Gilliam, Angela, and Lenora Foerstel. Confronting Margaret Mead, edited by Angela Gilliam, and Lenora Foerstel, Temple University Press, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global
Weimer, Donna Schimeneck. (1990) A rhetorical analysis of a scientific controversy: Margaret Mead versus Derek Freeman in cultural anthropology (Order No. 9104990). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.
Beerman, Jill S. (1989) Margaret Mead: Journey to Samoa (Order No. EP60718). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.
Booth, Barbara Van Westervelt. (1979) and keep in mind the children: Margaret Mead's contribution to and conflict with the American feminist movement (Order No. 313620). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.