Why did anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-78) choose to study Samoa?

There were several practical reasons why the young Columbia graduate student Margaret Mead decided to do field work on Samoan adolescence.

She thought her fluency in French and German would help her in the Polynesian island chain, and there were regular steamship stops there.

More important, she wanted to know how much of human behavior was culturally induced as opposed to biologically based.

As she later said, “One of the jobs of the anthropologist is to get people to see that many of the things that we think of as universal were only invented yesterday and don’t fit anymore today.”

Mead’s first book, Coming of Age in Samoa, was published in 1928.

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