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Studying other cultures in their native habitat without the presence of European influence

was unheard of. It became difficult to actually understand another culture without being
ethnocentric. As Ruth Benedict stated: I've never seen an Indian culture without missionaries,
traders and white exiles going native(Mead). This was the problem in anthropology in the early
20s. Psychology in anthropology at this time was highly underdeveloped. Margaret Mead was
aware of the problem. Being a young woman in the 20s where there was a large amount of
challenging of gender roles in the United States. At that level, her personal experiences and
interests lead her to be questioning, you know, what is universal about gender roles and about
behavior of adolescents and what is cultural(Mead). When Margaret had entered anthropology,
it was called salvage anthropology. The study of native American cultures that had already been
profoundly disrupted. If you wanted to try and study native American cultures as they were
before the arrival of the white man, you had to do it by finding a grandfather or a
grandmother who was willing to sit and tell you about the way it used to be(Mead). When
Margaret went into the field, she was interested in whether adolescence was as painful in other
societies as it was in the United States. This was a relatively new phenomenon, in anthropology
to have a problem and to go into the field and to research that problem and to try answer
a question based on it. The the reason she went to Samoa was because she was looking at this
whole notion of learned verses biologically determined behavior. And Samoa provided an
opportunity for her to look at the phenomena of adolescence from another cultural
perspective(Mead). This new trend that Margaret had started would produce the foundation of
psychological anthropology and studying in studying another culture in their native habitat.
Many people had misconceptions about other peoples cultures. This was demonstrated in Bocks
Rethinking Psychological Anthropology.
One of the misconceptions talked in Bocks book involved Savages having fewer needs
such as lack of desire for property. Margaret Mead found that other native people do have
property and an economic system such as the people of Pere village traded in dogs' teeth. They
blamed avenging spirits for their failures; we traded in stocks and bonds and blame the economy
for ours(Mead). The portrayal of native people in Bocks book also included that native people
had uncontrollable urges (pg. 14, Bock) and that they were emotional and violent. Yet Margaret
proved that this was the wrong notion set out. When visiting the Tchambuli people, she examined
that the the women were business like and efficient and handled all the finances and dressed up
the men and the children. The men were catty, they went shopping they couldn't cooperate with
each other, were flirtatious, artistic and not that all interested in fighting.(Mead) Also, when
raising their children, she found that both men and women very maternal interested in children
and planting food and feeding it to children, making their children grow with very low difference
in personality between men and women. They both were stylized on what we would call a rather
maternal, pro-andro mode (Mead.) Mead set out and proved that other cultures were not
savages, and also had a different way of enculturating their children. They were just as advance
in thinking as European countries.


Bock, Philip K.. Rethinking psychological anthropology: continuity and change in the study of
human action. New York: W.H. Freeman, 1988. Print.
Margaret Mead. Dir. Virginia McLaughlin. Perf. Margaret Mead. Filmakers Library, 1995. Film.