Friday, August 14, 2009
Don't tell whoppers to vavalagis
I bought an old Geo magszine at the Geelong West Rotary Book Fair and was surprised to read an article in it about Samoa and Margaret Mead. Way back in 1925 this 23 year old American girl asked many intimate questions of young Samoan girls and the girls who loved to joke and tell whoppers really misled this budding young anthropolist. Margaret Mead's book Coming of Age in Samoa became a blueprint for a theory that while American teenagers had problems, the Samoan teenagers did not. It was all about boy - girl behaviour.
An elderly Samoan woman Fa'apua 'a Fa'amu was 89 in the story (Geo 1991) and she explained with a mischievous smile that the girls had told Margaret Mead whatever she wanted to believe. It wasn't till a New Zealander, Derek Freedman, questioned Margaret Mead's conclusions that anthropology students realized that sometimes vavalagi researchers don't get it right. Freedman was told by Samoans (in the 1980s) that girls are strictly brought up!
And in Fiji - Marshall Sahlins wrote his definitive research book on Moala and he believed the tall tales told around the yaqona bowl and put them into his research as factual.