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Return from the Natives

Peter Mandler

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Celebrated anthropologist Margaret Mead, who studied sex in Samoa and child-rearing in New Guinea in the 1920s and '30s, was determined to show that anthropology could tackle the psychology of the most complex, modern societies in ways useful for waging the Second World War. This fascinating book follows Mead and her closest collaborators—her lover and mentor Ruth Benedict, her third husband Gregory Bateson, and her prospective fourth husband Geoffrey Gorer—through their triumphant climax, when Mead became the cultural ambassador from America to Britain in 1943, to their downfall in the Cold War.

Part intellectual biography, part cultural history, and part history of the human sciences, Peter Mandler's book is a reminder that the Second World War and the Cold War were a clash of cultures, not just ideologies, and asks how far intellectuals should involve themselves in politics, at a time when Mead's example is cited for and against experts' involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Publishers Weekly Review

May 27, 2013 – Mandler—whose volume The English National Character was a study of a nation from within—here examines Margaret Mead, who is notable for making a career of studying human culture from the out-side. Mead began exploring the natives of New Guinea with a mind towards child rearing, and at-tempted to use social anthropology to illuminate cultures for political and military use in WWII. As the war expanded she became convinced that anthropology could sit central to government actions. And from 1941-1950 it did. However, as WWII gave way to the Cold War, anthropology's insistence on no one culture being better than another was looked at as soft on Communism. Mandler attempts to rescue Mead's post-WWII period of study from failure and the author's premise, that Mead "won" WWII but "lost" the Cold War, is one that Mead herself believed and discussed openly. She managed to get her field into the central halls of U.S. policy, but found the constraints lacking. Balancing the real work of studying culture while pleasing politicians proved untenable and Mead settled on being a cultural critic in her home country, but Mandler concludes this may have been for the best.
Return from the Natives
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  • $32.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: May 07, 2013
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Seller: Yale University Press
  • Print Length: 384 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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