The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research

By Derek Freeman | Go to book overview
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9
In Manu'a:
After the Hurricane

AS SOON AS SHE HAD COMPLETED HER REPORT to the National Research Council, Mead wrote an urgent letter to Boas. In the "explanatory note" attached to her report, she had emphasized that it covered a period of fieldwork "too short to justify even tentative conclusions." She reiterated this point in her letter to Boas of January 5, 1926 (see Appendix), saying of her report that it "made absolutely no showing in conclusions at all." With only just over four months remaining to her in Manu'a, this had become a matter of serious concern. Added to this, she was "very much at sea" about another vital issue. "What I need most," she told Boas, "is advice as to the method of presentation of results when I finally get them." In her letter to Boas of July 19, 1925, she had told him: "I am afraid I shall never get properly weaned from asking your advice.""I ought," she continued in her letter of January 5, "to be able to marshall an array of facts from which another would be able to draw independent conclusions. And I don't see how in the world I can do that."

Two possibilities had occurred to her, but they both seemed "inadequate." The first possibility was to present the material in a "semi- statistical fashion," though, given the nature of the material she would be collecting, she could not see "how any sort of statistical technique would be of value." The second possibility was to "use case histories." The problem here was how to do this effectively. "Facts" that possessed significance in one case but were "mere bagatelles of externality in another" would, she thought, have to be included in

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