Margaret Mead


American Cultural Anthropologist and Psychologist

Author Quotes

I asked the little white boys which they would rather be, little white girls or little Negro boys. What do you think they said? ? They said they would rather be little Negro boys.

It always takes two generations to really lose something, but in two generations you can lose it.. The culture in this country that is ? most limited, is that of the second and third generations away from Europe. They have lost what they had and aren?t ready to take on anything else. They are scared to death and so busy being American? What we have in this country at present is a very large number of second- and third-generation Europeans who aren?t really sure they?re here? Fifteen years ago, if I gave a test to people to fill in: ?I am an American, not a _____,? most people would say ?foreigner,? and a few said ?Communist.? Now, they say ?not a Russian,? ?not an Italian,? ?not an Irishman,? ?not a Pole?: over twenty different things.

The white world ? [has] built its dignity and built its sense of identity on the fact it wasn?t black, the way males in this country built their sense of superiority over the fact that they are not female.

We?re sort of monglers, I was taught to say as a child. Monglers is a Pennsylvania dialect word for a dog of mixed background.

You see, I think we have to get rid of people being proud of their ancestors, because after all they didn?t do a thing about it. What right have I to be proud of my grandfather? I can be proud of my child if I didn?t ruin her, but nobody has any right to be proud of his ancestors? The one thing you really ought to be allowed to do is to choose your ancestors... We have a term for this in anthropology: mythical ancestors? They are spiritual and mental ancestors, they?re not biological ancestors, but they are terribly important.

In this very special form, feedback became part of the jargon of Group Dynamics, which has also assumed many of the characteristics of a cult in the efforts made to conserve some of the rigor of procedure with which Kurt Lewin and the experimentalist, Alex Bavelas, had attempted to imbue it. In this case, far from serving as a catalyzing, high-level theoretical tool, the term feedback has become a jargon-catchall for any kind of report back to government, management, the subjects of an experiment, subjects during an experiment, and so on. Stripped of its intellectual potential, the term knocks about the corridors of Unesco and for the most part those who use it have no idea that this bit of enjoined, Group Dynamic-recommended behavior is in any way related to the forbidding cross-disciplinary integration known as cybernetics.

My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.

People are still encouraged to marry as if they could count on marriage being for life, and at the same time they are absorbing a knowledge of the great frequency of divorce.

The older child who has lost or broken some valuable thing will be found when his parents return, not run away, not willing to confess, but in a deep sleep The thief whose case is being tried falls asleep

They draw back into themselves, and are thrown back on their own bodies for gratification. The men become narcissistic and uncertain of the power of any woman, no matter how strange and beautiful, to arouse their desire, but the women remain continually receptive to male advances.

With the exception of the few cases to be discussed in the next chapter, adolescence represented no period of crisis or stress, but was instead an orderly developing of a set of slowly maturing interests and activities. The girls' minds were perplexed by no conflicts, troubled by no philosophical queries, beset by no remote ambitions. To live as a girl with many lovers as long as possible and then to marry in one's own village, near one's own relatives, and to have many children, these were uniform and satisfying ambitions.

In Western Samoa native theory and vocabulary recognized the real pervert who was incapable of normal heterosexual response.

My material on Samoa was gathered during a nine-month field trip in 1925?26 as a Fellow in the Biological Sciences of the National Research Council, on a research project designated as the study of the adolescent girl. The Samoan Islands, with a population in 1926 of 40,229, are peopled by a Polynesian group, a people with light brown skin and wavy black hair who speak a Polynesian language. The islands were Christianized in the first half of the nineteenth century and were administratively divided between a League of Nations Mandate under New Zealand called Western Samoa, which comprised the islands of Upolu and Savaii, and American Samoa, which was governed by the United States Navy. All my detailed work was done in the remote islands of the Manua group, principally in the village of Tau on the island of Tau.

People in America, of course, live in all sorts of fashions, because they are foreigners, or unlucky, or depraved, or without ambition; people live like that, but Americans live in white detached houses with green shutters. Rigidly, blindly, the dream takes precedence.

The pains of childbirth were altogether different from the enveloping effects of other kinds of pain. These were pains one could follow with one's mind.

Throughout history, females have picked providers for mates. Males pick anything.

Women have an important contribution to make.

Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful.

Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.

Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance.

The prophet who fails to present a bearable alternative and yet preaches doom is part of the trap that he postulates. Not only does he picture us caught in a tremendous man-made or God-made trap from which there is no escape, but we must also listen to him day in, day out, describe how the trap is inexorably closing. To such prophecies the human race, as presently bred and educated and situated, is incapable of listening. So some dance and some immolate themselves as human torches; some take drugs and some artists spill their creativity in sets of randomly placed dots on a white ground.

To cherish the life of the world. [epitaph on her gravestone]

Women should be permitted to volunteer for non-combat service... We have no real way of knowing whether the kinds of training that teach men both courage and restraint would be adaptable to women or effective in a crisis. But the evidence of history and comparative studies of other species suggest that women as a fighting body might be far less amenable to the rules that prevent war from becoming a massacre and, with the use of modern weapons, that protect the survival of all humanity. That is what I meant by saying that women in combat might be too fierce.

Instead of needing lots of children, we need high-quality children.

No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back. You can get rid of it if you live in an enclave and keep everybody else out, and bring the children up to be unfit to live anywhere else. They can go on ignoring the family for several generations. But such communities are not part of the main world.

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American Cultural Anthropologist and Psychologist