Coming Of Age : A Different Type Of Anthropological Work Than Harris '

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Coming of Age in Samoa Coming of Age in Samoa is a very different type of anthropological work than Harris’, and is primarily an account and analysis of the fieldwork she conducted in Samoa (Mead 2001: xv). At the young age of 24, Mead sailed to the small Samoan of Ta’u to investigate the question of whether the troubles associated with adolescence in her home of America were universal, or if they were a product of that particular culture (Cote 1992: 499). She approached this issue by studying 68 Samoan girls between the ages of eight and twenty (Mead 2001: 199). She conducted her study among females as she wanted to minimize the difference between her and her informants and she describes how she spent most of her time with the girls, rather than with the chiefs or elders of Ta’u as would have been expected at the time (ibid: 9). Through her immersion in the lives of these Samoan girls she explores how they are shaped by Samoan society in various ways, from their experiences of sex to their family structure (ibid: 24, 28). She ultimately concludes that growing up in Samoa is easier because of the, “casualness of the whole Society” (ibid: 237). She argues that Samoan girls are not faced with the same troubles of adolescence because the culture of Samoa does not engender such troubles. She argues that this is due to a number of characteristics she attributes to Samoan society (ibid: 137). From a young age, Samoan girls become accustomed to the notions of birth and death, and similarly become cognizant towards matters of sex early on, at least partly due to the close quarters of the Samoan household (ibid: 151). She also argues that Samoan culture encourages a nonchalant personality and lack of specialized affection, with the chances... ... middle of paper ... ... the anthropological endeavor, and their differences highlight the broad scope of subject matter that anthropology encompasses. Both approaches have their strengths and also their weaknesses. Harris offers an interesting scientific model of human culture, but is undeniably guilty of distorting and misrepresenting data to fit his model (Johnston 1979: 202). Mead should be praised for her pioneering work in ethnography and contribution to the nature-nurture debate, but ultimately her research was not rigorous enough to undergo the scrutiny it was subjected to. However as Cote (1992: 509) mentions, if she had called the book, “Coming of Age on Ta’u”, she may have been much more impervious to criticism. Both perspectives provide different approaches to understanding human behavior and the nature of each approach affects the methodology each anthropologist utilizes.

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