This introductory chapter provides a brief overview of Margaret Mead's early “popular” ethnographies, the related articles that drew on this ethnographic material, and the anthropological, critical, and popular responses to her work. In the years 1925–1935, she published seven monographs and seventy-seven articles and book reviews in the academic, elite, and popular presses. As such, her writings reflected the intellectual debates and social milieu of that period. Encapsulating the dilemmas of American selfhood, the plot of Mead's stories narrates the self's transition from childhood to adulthood, and the struggles that shape that transition. Indeed, in all her work, Mead drew on an aspect of the self that many theorists have identified but that has been eclipsed by other emphases in contemporary theory. This is the notion of modern selfhood as a constant state of development, an always coming into being.
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