Growing Up in New Guinea – Margaret Mead

Margaret Mean is one of Anthropology's focal early theorists. She has penned a number of books covering issues of childhood, gender, age and aging and sexuality. Amongst her fieldwork, she worked in New Guinea, during the period between WWI and WWII. The resulting book, "Growing Up in New Guinea" (1930) explores the educational process of infants, children and youth alongside providing a broader picture of the lifecycle and way of life.

Mead seeks to use anthropological study to understand human nature. She explains: "Isolated on small Pacific Islands, in dense African jungles or Asiatic wastes, it is still possible to find untouched societies which have chosen solutions of life's problems different from our own, which can give us precious evidence on the malleability of human nature." (p. 4) The approach was not one to answer a specific research question, but to learn with an open mind, something which has slightly been lost in Anthropology as students and researchers are required to clearly outline research questions in seeking admission and/or funding. Mean explains that she "made this study of Manus education to prove no thesis, to support no reconceived theories. Many of the results came as a surprise to me…" (p. 5).

On the power of culture and impact of education, Mead concludes: "Although education can not alter the fact that the child will be in most important respects like the culture within which he is reared, methods of education may have far-reaching effects upon the development in the child of that sum total of temperament, outlook, habitual choice, which we call personality" (p. 223). Throughout, Mead reflects on the Manus society with that of America, and to an extent Samoa (where she previously did fieldwork). As an example: "If we are horrified to see a baby sitting all alone in the end of a canoe with nothing to prevent his clambering overboard into the water, the Manus would be equally horrified at the American mother who has to warn a ten-year-old child to keep his fingers from under a rocking chair, or not to lean out the side of a car." (p. 27)

On anthropological study and anthropological work, Mead provides some outlines: "With the aid of writing and an analytic point of view, it is possible for the investigator to master in a few months most of the traditions which it takes the native years to learn." (p. 5). This description reads rather ambitiously, if not condescending. A more detailed description in the Appendix explains: "In order to acquire this technique, he has devoted a great deal of time to the study of different primitive societies and the analysis of the social forms which are most characteristic of them. He has studied non-Indo European languages so that his mind will adjust easily to linguistic categories which are alien to our own. He has studied phonetics so that he may be able to recognize and record types of sound difficult for our ears to distinguish and even more difficult for our organs of speech to pronounce, accustomed as they are to different phonetic patterns. He has studied diverse kinship systems and gained speed in handling kinship categories so that the Manus scheme, which results, for instance, in individuals of the same generation addressing each other by grandparent terms, is not a perplexing obstacle but falls readily into a clear and easily comprehended pattern of thought. In addition, he is willing to forsake the amenities of civilised life and subject himself for months at a time to the inconveniences and unpleasantness of life among a people whose manners, methods of sanitation, and ways of thought, are completely alien to him. He is willing to learn their language, to immerse himself in their manners, get their culture sufficiently by heart to feel their repugnances and sympathise with their triumphs." (p. 281-282) 

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Post-doc: Social Anthropology (Energy)

There is a temporary 2-year position available at the Department of Social Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management (NTNU) as Postdoctoral Fellow in social anthropology. This fixed-term position has the primary goal of qualifying for work in professional academic chair positions.


The postdoctoral position forms part of a research project called Energy Futures: Assessing Intermediary Expertise that Guides Arctic and Global Hydrocarbon Development and is associated with the department's ongoing specialization in Organizational Anthropology.

The objective is to improve knowledge in relation to how intermediaries (energy consultants) generate learning environments across the energy industry. Research objectives of the project include building a conceptual terminology and typology of the kinds of assessments that consultants produce, as well as the visualizing practices developed in the creation of energy futures. The project will focus on aspects of ethnographic research that relate to the creation and performance of expertise, expert knowledge, and elite cultures more generally.

The Postdoctoral Fellow will be part of the research group in organizational anthropology at the department and is expected to take part in seminars, workshops and conferences convened as part of the project. It is also expected that the postdoctoral fellow will conduct ethnographic research.

More details.

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PhD & Post-doc: Education in Remote Settings

Post-docs and PhD studentship: Education Systems, Aspiration and Learning in Remote Rural Settings (Lesotho, India, Laos)

Brunel University London is seeking to appoint two post-doctoral research fellows and one PhD student to work on the above project. (A further Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship will be advertised shortly at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague.) The research, which is funded by the ESRC-DFID 'Raising Learning Outcomes' scheme and led by Dr Nicola Ansell (Brunel), Dr Peggy Froerer (Brunel), Dr Roy Huijsmans (ISS) and Prof Ian Rivers (Strathclyde), will examine the relationship between aspiration and schooling in remote rural areas of Lesotho, India and Laos. The post-doctoral research fellows will each be employed for 18 months (starting 1st July 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter) and will spend approximately 9months in the field, conducting ethnographic research in two remote rural schools and their surrounding communities. They will collaborate with our local partners and will also undertake literature reviews, policy analysis and be involved in the analysis of research findings from across the project and dissemination to academic and policy audiences.

The PhD student will conduct related research on education and aspiration in remote rural areas. Ideally, this will connect closely with, and link together, the research undertaken in the three case studies. It may involve ethnographic research in one or more of the three settings, or in a fourth country, or it might instead focus on wider policy issues that cross-cut national contexts. Candidates must have a first class or upper second class Honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in Human Geography, Anthropology or a related social science discipline. It is expected that applicants will also hold (or will be completing) a relevant Masters degree and will have experience of undertaking qualitative research.

More details.

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