Confronting the Margaret Mead Legacy: Scholarship, Empire, and the South Pacific


The legendary Margaret Mead established the importance and relevance of anthropology in the public mind and presented to Americans the view that theirs was among many cultures. She was at once shaped by the influences in the American intellectual community of the 1920s and, in turn, she was later to contribute to the image that the world has of the South Pacific. Moreover, Mead and her followers promoted sensationalized and inaccurate depictions of Pacific peoples as primitives defined primarily by sexuality or cannibalism. This book reveals the consequences of such Western condescension and integrates the views of U.S. and Pacific scholars in a historic critique of the products connected to the ethnographic enterprise in the Pacific. Destined to be highly controversial, this collection of articles provides for the first time a multicultural perspective on Margaret Mead's impact on Western anthropology and her views of colonialism, imperialism, and strategic and business interests in the South Pacific as well as Southeast Asia. The contributors, most of them active supporters of a nuclear-free and independent Pacific, use different styles and discourses to observe that it is only in the anthropological imagination that Pacific cultures are exotic paradises and sites of clan warfare. The authors demonstrate how these societies are still portrayed out of context with certain crucial issues ignored by Western scholars, for example, unemployment, colonialism, nuclear testing, and radiation poisoning. As such, the participants go beyond postmodernism and merely talking about the relationship between who "sees" and what is seen, by affirming the relevance of indigenous Pacific concepts as anew way to link scholarship and accountability. Acknowledging anthropology's contribution to stereotypes of savagery and exoticism, the contributors propose a global anthropology that is non-hierarchical, advocacy based, and

Additional information

Includes content by:
  • Angela Gilliam
  • Lenora Foerstel
  • Eleanor Leacock
  • Warilea Iamo
  • Susanna Ounei
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Philadelphia
Publication year:
  • 1992


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