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Derek Freeman interviewed by Frank Heimans [sound recording]
Bib ID 2304160
Format AudioAudio, OnlineOnline [sound recording]
Freeman, Derek (John Derek), 1916-2001, Interviewee
Online Versions
Access Conditions Access open for research, personal copies and public use. 
Description 2001 Feb. 12 
5 digital audio tapes (ca. 291 min.) 

Freeman speaks of his parents and early childhood in New Zealand renoucing religion at an early age, the influence of Ernest Beaglehole while at Victoria University College, his involvement in student activities, studying to be a teacher but had literary amibitions, a cultural determinist while at university, influenced by Theosophist Jiddu Krishnamurti, his interest in anthropology and decision to apply as a school teacher in Samoa arriving in 1940, while teaching young Samoan children he undertook a number of archaeological projects, how his study of the village of Sa'a'napu contradicted Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa, the influences shaping Mead's cultural determinism, left Samoa in 1943 to join the Royal Navy and his time in Borneo following the Japanese surrender encountering the wild Iban tribesmen, while based in Australia he studied early missionaries' accounts of Samoa, formally studied anthropology in the U.K., different viewpoints held in anthropology either condemned or praised his Somoa thesis.

Freeman speaks of his formal study of the Iban from 1949 that produced the first detailed study of Iban cognative society and its impact in 1951, undertook further studies in genetics at the ANU Medical School and the signficance of phylogenetics, his doctorate in anthropology at Cambridge, acting as Head of Anthropology, ANU in 1956, his experiments with psychoanalysis, meeting Mead at the ANU in 1964, his criticism of Freud's anthropological views in Totem and Taboo, his position paper on social anthropology preliminary to his further studies on Samoa, how his 1965-1967 Somoan study resulted in his 1983 book Margaret Mead and Samoa where he refuted all her claims, the enormous opposition to his views throughout the field, the public debate over nature vs. nurture that followed, his TV documentary on the Mead-Freeman controversy produced by Frank Heimans in 1988 revealing how Mead was hoaxed by her female subjects, David Williamson's play Heretic based on his work, new directions in anthropology.


Derek Freeman, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Australian National University, and leading antagonist of the Mead-Freeman Controversy. John Derek Freeman first went to Samoa in 1940 as a 23 year old student convinced by the precepts embodied in Margaret Mead's bestselling book Coming of Age in Samoa first published in 1928. It had provided the evidence needed by cultural determinists that culture and not genetics determines social behaviours and spearheaded the sexual revolution of the 1960s as well as modern feminism. But after living in Samoa from 1940-43, learning the language and studying adolescence patterns on the island, later enhanced in 1965 by further field work, Freeman eventually published his "Margaret Mead and Samoa" that completely refuted her basic observation that Samoa was a society of free love and no rape. He proposed a more complex view of social behaviour based on an interaction of culture with genetically determined traits.


Recorded on Feb. 12, 2001 at Deakin, A.C.T.

Also available online

Documentation includes a reproduction from "Choice and morality in anthropological perspective : essays in honor of Derek Freeman" of a 1988 paper by G.N. Appell and T.N. Madan entitled: Derek Freeman : notes on an intellectual biography.

Index/Finding Aid Note Timed summary available (7 p.) and uncorrected transcript (typescript, 96 leaves) 
Subjects Freeman, Derek (John Derek), 1916-2001 -- Interviews.  |  Mead, Margaret, 1901-1978 -- Views on Samoa.  |  Freeman, Derek (John Derek), 1916- . Margaret Mead and Samoa.  |  Freeman, Derek (John Derek), 1916- -- Views on Samoa.  |  Anthropologists -- Australia -- Interviews.  |  Nature and nurture.  |  Human behavior -- Effect of nature on.  |  Environmental psychology.
Other authors/contributors Heimans, Frank, 1943-, Interviewer
Also Titled

Derek Freeman, notes toward an intellectual biography.

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ORAL TRC 4660 (transcript)
Copy: Transcript
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