Health, Illness and Disability in Margaret Mead’s Autobiography Blackberry Winter : My Earlier Years


MORAD Tagrid

Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Although the well-known American Anthropologist Margaret Mead lectured at the National Institute of Mental Health during the Second War World and her work was published by the Institute, she never published in medical journals. During this period her research focus was on child development, but her contributions went beyond that when she regarded the importance of inclusion and the cultural construct of disability. Mead argued that the study of American national character had to include all types of Americans. Regarding disability she was among the first to suggest that people with disabilities need to be included in anthropological studies to fully understand human nature. In her autobiography Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years (1972), Mead mentions her novel approach to breast feeding and expresses her concern about suicidality among persons with disability. Some of Mead’s ideas on health, illness and disability are considered progressive and added value to medical science but other remain controversial. Direct search of PubMed database reveals fourteen papers discussing the contribution of Margaret Mead to science, specifically medicine, and that includes the leading medical journals: Lancet, Science, American Journal of Diseases of Childhood and the famous journal Mental Retardation. The selected papers demonstrate Mead’s revolutionizing ideas in some of these medical topics. In this presentation, I will discuss the appearance of these themes in Mead’s autobiography, in which her comments are either direct generalizations or conclusions drawn from the described cases. Comments on the scientific validity of her arguments will be taken from the medical papers. Though Mead’s autobiography attracts attention to themes related to health, illness and disability, I suggest that further readings of her published works are needed to understand fully her ideas.
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