Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation
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Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  1,579 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Rarely do science and literature come together in the same book. When they do -- as in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, for example -- they become classics, quoted and studied by scholars and the general public alike.

Margaret Mead accomplished this remarkable feat not once but several times, beginning with Coming of Age in Samoa. It details her historic journey...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 20th 2001 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1928)
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Erik Graff
Jul 13, 2010 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mead fans
Recommended to Erik by: Lajla Stousland
During childhood summers spent at grandmother's cottage in SW Michigan there was little to do but go on walks with the dog, play solitaire, knit, assemble puzzles or read. I read a lot. Some of the books I obtained myself with money earned from doing chores. But even at a penny per cigarette butt collected from around the house, earning enough for a fifty cent paperback took a while, especially after the grounds had been scoured a couple of times. Consequently, I depended a lot on the books at t...more
Kevin
As as result of Derek Freeman's "debunking" of this book, this is a very complicated book to read. Freeman, who had sociobiological inclinations, was not seeking merely to debunk this book, but the agenda of cultural anthropology to treat human behavior as culturally determined. COMING OF AGE IN SAMOA is one of the key texts in making the claim of culture trumping biology.

What this means to anyone seeking to read this book or Freeman's critique is that both books should be treated as not really...more
Kyle
The first time I encountered Margaret Mead was in a biography about Norbert Wiener. I was very impressed that Mead had written a well received book at the age of 27 in 1928 when at that time science was dominated by men. So, when I came across this book, Coming of Age in Samoa, sitting on the shelf in the local bookstore I decided to give it a go.

Coming of Age in Samoa details the lives of adolescent Samoan girls in the early 1920s. Mead spent time observing the girls and provides an interesting...more
Steve Van Slyke
Just prior to taking off for Tahiti to help a friend sail his boat from there to Apia, Samoa, I bought this book hoping to learn more about Samoan culture.

Even though it was written a long time ago it could still have been interesting, and parts of it were. But for me it was slow-going and ultimately I gave up about half way through.

Samoan culture today is far from what it was back then, and judging by some of the other reviews here, what Mead was told and reported about the culture back then ma...more
Cărăşălu
A famous classical anthropological book, easy to read even for laymen, it lacks much depth and novelty. Or perhaps it seems so in retrospective. Mead sets out to answer the question: is adolescence necessarily as turbulent as it is in our society? To find out, she investigates the coming of age process in Samoa. Although the ethnographic account may not be thorough enough, it provides some useful insights. The Samoans were very ”chill” people. The children had responsibilities and tasks since an...more
Brandon Fryman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura Pătru
Mead’s book, one of the most popular anthropological books, controversial as it is, is about adolescence. More precisely, she ponders whether or not adolescent is a universally turmoil or a result of the environment in which the Western children grow up - a question worth pondering. To answer this question, she analyzes the life of teenage Samoan girls with which she lives for 9 months. Frankly, I knew little of Mead’s book before I finished it so my reading wasn’t influenced in anyway by the en...more
Katherine
This is one of my all-time favorite ethnographies. From a formatting and methodological standpoint, it was extremely unique for its time. In the early twentieth century, most ethnographies were, to put it mildly, extremely dry and comprised of catalogue-like accounts of kinship relationships, foods that are eaten, plants that are harvested, the organization of the calendar, etc. This stuff is all important, but it painted a two-dimensional picture. Mead succeeded in peopling her ethnography with...more
Dane O'Leary
This is a book I'd throw up to tell someone why I love anthropology so much. With Coming of Age, Mead essentially made ethnography and anthropological studies accessible to the mainstream. This book weaves illustrative description with comparisons to Western adolescent life in a way that really illustrates the message of the book: Adolescence isn't universally a time of turmoil, but rather is a result of Western civilization on the process of growing up.

Beautifully written, but easy to read. I'd...more
Patrick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rick
Margaret Meade made up her supposed research results to please her mentor and boss when she made the trip to Samoa at age 21. See Margaret Meade and the Heretic, by Derek Freeman, Professor at the Australian National University.
Adam
Feb 24, 2010 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for a decent, well-written cultural study
Recommended to Adam by: ?
Mead begins a bit slowly, going into a detailed overview of Samoan culture and lifestyle. However, it is in the last few chapters that her work comes to fruition. Most people know that in other cultures, things are done differently, but one must confront (in person as much as possible) these different cultural realities before one can really internalize the fact.

While not thoroughly "scientific," Mead satisfactorily refrains from too much speculation. A large portion of the book is dedicated to...more
Robin
This classic report on girlhood and adolescence in American Samoa was first published in 1928, based upon well-documented research that Ms. Mead did over a 6-month period. She studied preadolescent, “those midway,” and adolescent girls from several communities. Although her total sample size is only about 70 girls, this represents over 11% of the total individuals in the communities. Ms. Mead’s motivation was not only to do an anthropological study of young Samoan women, but also to contrast the...more
Felicity Kendrick
I didn't realise how interested i was until towards the end of the book. The majority of the book tells the reader all about Samoan culture, in preparation for when Margaret Mead really addresses the question of whether adolescence is necessarily a difficult experience, in the chapter "Our Educational Problems in the Light of Samoan Contrasts". This chapter is really very interesting, and reads as a well-structured essay. All of the questions are asked in this chapter, and it is in this chapter...more
Matthew
Mead's seminal work is used by many sociology classes (including one I took during my undergraduate years) to show that many of the cultural practices we might assume are universal among humankind in fact depend upon our social context. By showing that the natives of Samoa engaged in social and sexual practices we consider to be unusual or harmful, Mead sought to highlight the malleability of humankind, and the power that culture has in shaping us into who we ultimately become.

Unfortunately for...more
Amanda Sailors
Despite all of the controversy surrounding this book, and Margaret Mead in general, I really enjoyed Coming of Age in Samoa. Although it is somewhat lacking in depth and detail when compared with other ethnographies, Mead's purpose for writing this book was not just to inform her fellow scholars, but also laypeople interested in learning about other cultures. This book does a wonderful job of being easy to read and accessible to the lay person.

Simi
I am currently on page 130 of the book. I chose to read this because of its prominence in the anthropological world and it having been written by a woman during a time when most scientists were men. This book is definitely an easy read, and an interesting one. The author, Margaret Mead, does an excellent job detailing different age groups within Samoan society and how they interact with each other. Mead even goes so far as to have a section pertaining to "delinquents", or adolescent girls who do...more
Valerie
Since at least the Enlightenment, there's been a myth of people whose lives have remained unchanged 'since time immemorial'. This myth must be based on the assumption that people have awfully short memories. Very few peoples who have been historically documented live in the same way that their grandparents did, and many don't live the same way they themselves did in their youth.

All a long way of saying that I wasn't dismayed to hear that some of Mead's informants later recanted their stories--I'...more
Deborah
Though some of Mead's conclusions might fairly be called naive, her study of adolescent Samoan girls in the context of their culture is immensely illuminating, not only for its own sake--I confess I knew almost nothing about Samoan culture, adolescent or otherwise--but also for how starkly it highlights the assumptions we are apt to make about our own culture. I picked it up thinking it would be nice to have read it since it's part of the anthropological canon (and since so few are authored by w...more
Shane Wallis
With all the controversy surrounding this title I was expecting this to be quite a radical read. If this was my sole criteria for judging this book, the score would be quite a bit lower. While I can see why certain assertions might have come off as more shocking when it was initially printed, it is not so shocking at all by today's standards. That being said, I still found it to be an enjoyable book. Taking the notion that people exist within cultures and cultures vary, Margaret Mead sets about...more
Colleen
When my professor for Anthropological Theory passed out a list of books to choose from for an essay we had to write, I snatched up Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa the moment I saw it listed as an option; I'd been wanting to read it almost since I started becoming seriously interested in studying anthropology. Really, I don't think an introductory level class exists that does not bring up Mead and the controversy surrounding this book.

So what's it about, and why is it so controversial? ......more
Meg Morrison
Like reading a research paper...which I guess makes sense, as it is a sociological study. Crazy to be teaching sociology in the same place Mead did her study...not too many people can say that. Most of my students equate her name with lies, which is very interesting to me, and something I would like to explore more in my sociology class. I began reading this book as soon as I moved to Samoa, and will have to re-read it now that I have a year's worth of experience living here, and do my own compa...more
Renee
I'm doing research on South Pacific setting and culture for my current WIP, and thought I'd try this classic. Libararian REALLY recommended it. Was very intricate and detailed. Honestly, I had a hard time following all the subtext and felt rather like an ignorant Westerner. There were some cool things like the division of labor, and childhood duties but the family networking nuances made my head spin. Margaret Mead spent her whole career making sense of it - no way could I get it all down in a w...more
Megumi
For my PMT essay.
Alessandra Russo
Lessi questo libro l'anno scorso sotto consiglio di una persona che mi disse che "avrei visto le cose da un altro punto di vista" , mi sono stupita di quanto potesse essere reale e premonitrice la sua affermazione, veramente leggendo questo libro si riesce a guardare la natura umana con una lente nuova, la società antropomorfa senza le sozzure della globalizzazione, degli arrivismi e del volgare capitalismo. Ogni cosa è spontanea e senza tabù perché tutto è rapportato alla natura e al rapporto c...more
Judd
Jan 25, 2008 Judd rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in the social lives people; world travellers.
Recommended to Judd by: Gregory Bateson
This book is a fascinating document of its times, at times irritatingly list-like, but also very useful in talking to people from Samoa, as I did recently. It is a book that accommodates difference of opinion as to its treatment of locals as well as its treatment of gender and societal issues. It has something to offer even those who call it racist.

Meanwhile, it does impart a quite vivid feeling of place and of cultural tone that helps anyone who might find herself on a Australasian island.
Nick Certa
All in all an interesting study. Its interesting to note that Samoa now has an extremely high rate of crime, drug abuse, rape and incest, all too typical of a native society rapidly infected by Western Imperialism. Mead captured the beauty, or at least as much as i suppose an anthropologist might capture, and wrapped everything up in the last segment with a particularly lucid and, dare i say, prophetic assessment of what had become a redundant piece of work. Push through to the end.
Chris
Nov 07, 2009 Chris rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: i-own
This is a nice anthropological book with some intriguing insights into an island community as well as some interesting theories and applications as to the behaviors and education/social methods used in American society.

This was a rather interesting book to read and provides some thoughtful and thought provoking ideas. It's not necessarily in the vein of things I'd normally seek out, but of the anthropological works I have read, this is one that felt most accessible to me.
Marko
I was really excited about this book when I read it for a college anthropology course, but now that I know that much of the science and research is suspect, I can never take this book seriously again. I have no doubt that Margaret Mead's motives were pure, and that she was essential to a great shift in Western thinking, and all that, but the fact remains that her methods were questionable; her speculative psychology of "primitive youth" is just bad science.
Javier
Margaret Mead makes a pretty interesting case for the contention of western young adults/adolescents being largely motivated by the organization of western society, and presents Samoan society (as of 1920-1923) as holding some possible solutions to our unease. Some of this research has been called to question, but it was nonetheless a fascinating study to compare western society to--even if it was fictional or mis-portrayed, what-have-you.
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Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist who was frequently a featured writer and speaker in the mass media throughout the '60s and '70s as a popularizer of the insights of anthropology into modern American and western life but also a respected, if controversial, academic anthropologist.

Her reports as to the purportedly healthy attitude towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian...more
More about Margaret Mead...
Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years Male and Female Growing Up in New Guinea Letters from the Field, 1925-1975

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