News Release

SAPIENS Magazine and PRX to bring listeners podcast series exploring the controversial research of famed anthropologist Margaret Mead

Business Announcement

University of Chicago Press Journals

Contact: Chip Colwell

“The Problems with Coming of Age” podcast series co-hosted by Doris Tulifau and Kate Ellis will reconsider Mead’s seminal work while asking if it’s ever possible to fully understand cultures different from one’s own

The series is available in the “SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human” podcast feed beginning October 3

New York, NY – SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human from SAPIENS magazine has partnered with public media organization PRX––one of the world’s top podcast publishers––to bring listeners narrative-driven season telling the story of the famed anthropologist Margaret Mead, her epic life, and controversial research.

The eight-episode series, titled “The Problems with Coming of Age,” will serve as season six of the SAPIENS podcast. The series launches on October 3, 2023 and is available free across all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Overcast, and Pocket Casts. New episodes will be available weekly.

In 1928, when she was just 27 years old, Margaret Mead published Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization, which investigated the sexual lives of young women on the Pacific Islands. The book was an instant bestseller, challenging Americans to rethink much of what they had assumed to be true about sex, human biology, and growing up. Mead became the most influential anthropologist in history and one of TIME magazine’s most powerful 25 women of the 20th century. She received a U.S. presidential medal of freedom and a U.S. postal stamp was made with her picture on it. 

But what if Mead’s findings about Samoans were wrong? 

Five years after Mead’s death, an anthropologist named Derek Freeman rebutted the central claims Mead had made in her career-launching work, sparking a media sensation and challenging the field of anthropology. The controversy that followed sparked central questions about the science of intercultural understanding and why Samoans weren’t empowered to speak for themselves. This special SAPIENS podcast season tells this complicated story while also exploring key quandaries about the human experience and if it’s ever possible to fully understand cultures different from your own.

The season is co-hosted by Doris Tulifau, a Samoan activist and anthropology PhD student, and Kate Ellis, an anthropologist and radio producer. It was created in collaboration with the award-winning Samoan novelist and playwright Sia Figiel and guided by multiple humanities scholars, including professors Nancy Lutkehaus (University of Southern California), Agustín Fuentes (Princeton University), Paul Shankman (University of Colorado, Boulder), and Lisa Uperesa (University of Auckland). A university-based curriculum to accompany the podcast will be designed and Sia Figiel will contribute on air and translate Coming of Age in Samoa into the Samoan language for the first time.

Season 6 of the SAPIENS podcast was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About the SAPIENS Podcast

In January 2016, SAPIENS magazine was launched with a mission to bring anthropology—the study of being human—to the public to make a difference in how people see themselves and everyone around them. The magazine deepens the public’s understanding of the human experience by exploring anthropology’s most exciting, novel, and thought-provoking ideas. Complementing the magazine, SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human presents stories about the human experience through the lens of anthropology. Each season takes a different approach, ranging from in-depth storytelling to interviews, to tackle such topics as DNA and identity, preppers and the apocalypse, dreaming, Denisovans, police violence and the pandemic, and sunken slave ships.

SAPIENS is an editorially independent magazine of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and published in partnership with the University of Chicago Press. Subscribe to SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human wherever listeners get their podcasts. Visit for more.

About PRX

PRX is a non-profit public media company specializing in audio journalism and storytelling. PRX serves independent producers and organizations by helping them connect to their most engaged, supportive audiences. One of the world’s leading podcast publishers, PRX works in partnership with TED, PBS, the Smithsonian, Futuro Media, GBH and more. PRX is also home to Radiotopia, known as one of the most creative and successful podcast networks. In addition, PRX distributes trusted public radio programming to hundreds of stations nationwide, including “The World,” “The Moth Radio Hour,” “This American Life,” “Snap Judgment,” “Reveal,” “Left, Right & Center,” and “Latino USA.” PRX programs have been recognized by the Peabody Awards, the duPont-Columbia Awards, the IDA Documentary Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes. In 2022, Futuro Media and PRX won a Pulitzer Prize. Visit for more.

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