Influential works of scientific racism, ranked


Wasn’t CoAiS also problematic for reasons other than ‘noble savageism’ (savageage?) ? Like wasn’t Mead taken in by more than a few shaggy dog stories provided by the population who - being rather more sophisticated than she gave 'em credit for - were basically just “‘avin’ a larf”? Or was that some other anthropological opus? Or every?

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Yes, thanks for that, Maggie. An especially relevant point these days.


I don’t remember for certain about that. I know (and the piece I linked talks about) her kind of assigning a broad culture to all of Samoa, and flattening out differences between groups so that it better fit her thesis.

What you’re talking about has DEFINITELY happened to anthropologists, though. I remember learning about in school, but I’m not able to connect the general idea to specific incidents off the top of my head. Sometimes it was as a deliberate joke and sometimes, though, it was more about traditions in how you talk to outsiders. I seem to remember a situation where there was a cultural understanding of generally being agreeable with strangers to the point that the anthropologist got a “oh, yeah we do that” to just about every question he asked. Imagine interviewing a bunch of Minnesotans. Like that.


That was her. They led her down the village path. We students of Leslie A. White at Ann Arbor used to refer to Mead as “The Ann Landers of anthropology.” For those of you too young to remember, Ann Landers was a popular mid-century gossip columnist.

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