Scrambling on Defense: An Anatomy of Anthropological Responses to the Mead/Freeman Controversy

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2012-01-01
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Strikwerda, Robert
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Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Science Communication Project @ISU was founded in 2010 with the goal of enhancing collaborative research on, education for, and the practice of public science communication, broadly conceived. Our biennial symposia- which include public presentations of multidisciplinary research and interactive workshops- bring together a network of scholars who share interests in public engagement of science, environmental communication, natural resource management, and agriscience. Conference proceedings showcase research, evaluations, and critiques of science communication-related practices and phenomena.

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In 1984 Derek Freeman launched a crusade against Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa, claiming to have definitively falsified her central claims. Anthropologists responded in a proliferating variety of ways, while failing to project scientific coherence. Underlying anthropology’s inability was its changing, and increasingly fissuring, conception of itself as a discipline. Was it a humanistic field or a science, and if a science what kind of science? Most saliently revealed was the discipline’s failure to recognize its own tacit acceptance of Mead’s impact on the American reading public without clearly—and earlier—advancing critical views of Mead’s earliest work.

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