To be perfectly frank, I am no fan of Margaret Mead. Had she been born a while later, she probably would have been the Senior Social Scientist at the Human Terrain System. I once heard a colleague describe her, in supposedly positive terms, as one of anthropology’s “war horses” –which seems all too true on many different, unflattering, levels. I use some of her work in my visual anthropology course, but generally I have avoided her work, not recommending it to students, and her work had absolutely no impact whatsoever on either my entering or staying in anthropology. So, hopefully I have made myself clear: I don’t like her, at all, in no way.
This post was “inspired” by a random event: I have been rereading some early interviews with the founder of Haystack, Austin Heap, in preparation for the next Encircling Empire report (which will come out sooner than planned, because it is huge already). Incidentally, I basically have the same opinion of Heap as I do of Mead, except that she actually did real work, and didn’t just gain the public spotlight for work not achieved.
Was Austin Heap’s overweening sense of self-importance at least partly inspired by the words of Margaret Mead? In an early interview, Heap stated:
“There is a quote I am fond of and will mangle but ‘never doubt that a small group of common people can change the world’.”
Some anthropologists use the actual quote as part of their e-mail signature lines (probably just to aggravate me…yes, that’s it), and so I have come to know it quite well—it’s alleged to be from Margaret Mead (not that there is any source for the quote in which she she either said or wrote these words):
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Mead also found her way into the text of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, which I suddenly remembered while reading Heap. Here is one of many great scenes from the film with Johnny Depp playing Thompson, at a policemen’s anti-drug convention in a hotel in Las Vegas:
Update (thanks to CM and Daniela–see comments below): Mead Men
(Reference to Margaret Mead from “The Summer Man” episode of Mad Men)
Where else have you encountered references to Margaret Mead in popular culture? I would be curious to know.