Topic: Culture and War
From The Margaret Mead Symposium: Whither the United States in the World?
Commemorating the centennial of the birth of Margaret Mead.
December 2 & 3, 2001
Sponsors: Library of Congress and The Smithsonian Institution
What role does culture play in war? How is viewed amongst different cultures? Panelists discuss Mead’s thinking on war, her belief war is learned and taught, rather than ingrained.
Cultural View of Aggression
Speaker: William O. Beeman
Professor of Anthropology, Brown University
Beeman discusses Mead’s attempts during WWII to help Americans understand why the war was being fought, and her writings on war in general and on Americans’ way of fighting wars in particular.
Misunderstanding Culture and War
Speaker: Alan K. Hendrickson
Professor of Diplomatic History, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
Before WWII, most Americans did not think Japanese capable of the strike on Pearl Harbor, while most Japanese believed Americans to be incapable of fighting back, Hendrickson explains. He compares this to September 11th, and discusses the relevance of Mead’s work.
War is Harshest Among Common Cultures
Speaker: Michael Mandelbaum
Christian Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University
Mandelbaum points out that cultural distance does not necessarily make conflict more likely. Indeed the most bitter wars have fought between similar cultures.
War as Metaphor
Speaker: Deborah Tannen
Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University
Tannen asks what alternatives there are to the war metaphor (the war on drugs, the war on poverty, etc.)? She recounts a discussion on Japanese television about economic matters and the use of metaphor.
Mead on War
Speaker: Ben Wattenberg
Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute and moderator of PBS's Think Tank
Wattenberg believes that the U.S. must continue to allow immigration, and that we must teach our enemies to agree with us.
Mead on War
Speaker: Timothy White
Journalist, executive television and film producer
White points out that Mead taught that war is learned and taught, and asks then what we should be teaching young people to avoid war.