In the early twentieth century, anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote a seminal book called Coming of Age in Samoa, followed by a second ethnography called Growing Up in New Guinea. Now, anthropologist Pamela Peck borrows from these titles for her latest book, Coming of Age in Anthropology. The similarity is intentional and goes beyond a simple play on words; in less than a century, the world has transformed from a globe of villages to a global village. Whereas before we could go about our lives without much concern for people on the other side of the planet, we are now forced to recognize that the world is one interrelated and interdependent social system.
It is time to “come of age” in this new global reality, and anthropology, as the study of humankind, is particularly suited to the task. With this goal in mind, Dr. Peck offers twenty commentaries, selected from the many talks she has delivered to audiences over a period spanning three decades, critically examining our economic, political and ideological institutions so that we might better decide how to have a world. The choice, she states, is clear: either we learn to grow up together, or we do not get to grow up at all.