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Eleanor Leacock Bibliography Definition


This compelling analysis of the implications of the “Mead-Freeman” debate is the last work by Eleanor Leacock, who died in Samoa in 1987. According to Leacock, one of the principal effects of Freeman's attack on Mead's work was to focus attention upon his support for biological determinism. In addition, his findings about Samoa ignored the culture changes that had taken place in Samoa through time. Freeman can also be faulted for failing to note the contemporary problems of Samoa as a small, Third World island nation.

On the other hand, Leacock reflects on the possibility that even if Mead's research reinforced an infantile image of Samoans as “simple, happy natives,” Freeman's “balanced” emphasis on aggression and violence has potentially negative effects for Samoan communities throughout the world. Hence, both Mead and Freeman separated Samoan culture from Samoan history.

Leacock thus demonstrates vividly that the lack of a historically based, advocacy-oriented anthropology produces stereotyped images. This advocacy is the key to forging access to the “insider” perspective, for it assumes that it is undertaken in active collaboration with those whom the researcher is studying. Leacock's paper thus points the way to a more constructuve and collaborative ethnography.

A good look at the continuing contribution to anthropological theory of KB's daughter Eleanor (Happy) recently appeared in Race, Gender, and Class. See citation and abstract below:

Catherine Hodge McCold. “Eleanor Burke Leacock and Intersectionality: Materialism, Dialectics, and Transformation.” Race, Gender & Class 15.1-2 (2008): 24-41.

Anthropologist Eleanor Burke Leacock's Marxist dialectical materialism helped to create the core of intersectionality and still provides a methodology to help advance transformation. Her efforts contributed to two core aspects of contemporary intersectional approaches to capitalism: 1) the acceptance of the intersectionality of oppression in all its forms-race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, etc., and 2) the general rejection of biological determinism as it relates to race, gender, and class. Using taped interviews by the author and other materials, this article examines Leacock's influence on intersectionality in five areas: 1) women's status in egalitarian societies, 2) race, class, and gender in schools, 3) the critique of the "culture of poverty" approach, 4) women, development, and work, 5) colonialism, race, class, and gender in Samoa. It also examines some contemporary work building on Leacock's model, which gives class a primary position, to illustrate how her approach continues to engage on-going challenges. Within the oppressive context of Cold War America, Leacock tested and found support for the Marxist hypothesis that humans once lived in a state in which men and women were equal partners. She explored and refuted biological determinist notions that 1) in all societies women have been subordinate to men (i.e., as a result of sexual biology), and she also refuted the idea that 2) basic features of capitalism (such as competition and private ownership of property) are found in all societies and individuals (i.e., are related to human "nature"). Since so many of the contemporary forms of oppression-attacks on immigrants, the rise of religious "fundamentalism," the increasing use of rape and other torture as weapons of war, the coloring of prison populations, rising attacks on sexuality, as examples-are resurrecting the ideology of biological determinism and are class assaults with new faces, it is ever more urgent to use the tools Leacock helped to develop.

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