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Lewin, B.D. (1945). Surveys and Comments—Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead: Balinese Character, a Photographic Analysis. Psychoanal. St. Child, 1:379-387.

(1945). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1:379-387


Surveys and Comments—Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead: Balinese Character, a Photographic Analysis

Bertram D. Lewin, M.D.

Balinese Character is an important book. With the lucidity and succinctness we are accustomed to expect of her, Miss Mead begins with a fifty-page account of the authors' observations of a year and a half in Bali. The book is "not about Ballnese custom, but about the Balinese … as living persons, moving, standing, eating, sleeping, dancing, going into trance". A hundred large plates follow (about eight photographs to each plate) with the pictures arranged to bring out ontogenetic relationships. For example, one series of pictures consists of a little boy playing with his genital, another playing with a toy stuck between his legs, then a man dancing ceremonially with a lance held in the identical position; another series shows a little boy playing with a bird on a string, then men with fighting cocks. Bateson, to whom the photographs are mainly due, illuminates and clarifies them by legends that give added observations or relevant comments. He explains, for example, that the sling which the evil Witch carries in a certain popular play bears the same name as the sling in which a mother carries her baby. In order of arrangement, the plates parallel the subjects discussed in the preceding exposition, with many cross-references and mutual clarifications. The book is a descriptive atlas of many important Balinese experiences from birth through burial.

The wealth of observation and the stylistic economy of the presentation preclude an exhaustive summary of this book.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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