Peter Hempenstall

Truth's Fool

Derek Freeman and the War over Cultural Anthropology

University of Wisconsin Press 2017

New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in BiographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network February 1, 2018 Jared Miracle

The debate over Margaret Mead’s and Derek Freeman’s conflicting ethnographic reports has gone on for decades. While no longer a hot topic, Mead-Freeman stands...

The debate over Margaret Mead’s and Derek Freeman’s conflicting ethnographic reports has gone on for decades. While no longer a hot topic, Mead-Freeman stands as a testament to the power and, sometimes, imprecision of social scientific inquiry. In his new book, Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War over Cultural Anthropology (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017), Peter Hempenstall (emeritus professor of history at the University of Canterbury and conjoint professor of history at the University of Newcastle) gives an unprecedented look at the life and works of a controversial figure in the making of modern anthropology. In this interview, we discuss how cultural and nationalistic biases played a role in the Mead-Freeman controversy, whether or not Freeman suffered from mental illness, and why the man is often misrepresented in the history of the discipline.


Jared Miracle is an anthropologist and folklorist whose research areas include violence, education, and digital culture. He is the author of Now with Kung Fu Grip! How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for America.

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