The Institute for Intercultural Studies

The Institute for Intercultural Studies (1944-2009)

Margaret Mead: Photo copyright Lotte Jacobi
Photo: © Lotte Jacobi

When Margaret Mead established the Institute for Intercultural Studies in 1944, she defined its concerns as "advancing knowledge of the various peoples and nations of the world, with special attention to those peoples and those aspects of their life which are likely to affect intercultural and international relations."

Throughout its existence, the Institute has sustained the ethnographic tradition of its founder. The events of this new millennium have made us even more sharply aware of the need to seek intercultural understanding through research and to promote it through a variety of media, both domestically and internationally. We have invited others to look through Mead's eyes at the value of the world's many cultures and to share her vision of enhanced communication without the loss of distinctiveness. We have hoped to strengthen the public understanding of anthropological research and interdisciplinary cooperation.

As of December 2009, the Institute is closed. After six decades of activities, the Board of Directors and Advisors of the Institute met in Spring 2009 to make this decision and put together plans for dissolution.

Mary Catherine Bateson, president of the Board, explained: "The members of the Institute's boards have achieved a great deal in these decades and have much to be proud of. However, I do not believe that keeping institutions and organizations alive is a good in itself. My daughter, Sevanne, has worked with me on many of these projects but the obligation is not, after all, genetic - it is primarily derived from conversation and memories that she does not have, so it is not binding on the next generation. My half sister, Nora Bateson, is undertaking much of the task in relation to Gregory Bateson with a new non-profit based on the west coast. Furthermore, the transition of the independent firm of Sloane & Hinshaw to Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors is not a perfect fit for the Institute - RPA is not oriented to the management of intellectual estates, which has emerged as our central mission."

Over the years, the IIS has managed the estates of Mead, Gregory Bateson and their colleagues. Starting in December 2009, the rights in the unpublished papers, correspondence, and field notes of Margaret Mead and many of her colleagues, archived in the Library of Congress, including the pre-war notes and photographs of Gregory Bateson, are now in the public domain.

The rights in publications of Margaret Mead are being donated to the American Anthropological Association, to manage for the benefit of the profession and to provide income for their continuing work. The rights in publications of Gregory Bateson will be handled by Nora Bateson, the daughter of Gregory Bateson and Lois Camack. She is in the process of forming a non-profit corporation to be called the Bateson Ideas Group, which will take over the management of Bateson's post World War II writings, both published and unpublished, now archived in California at UC Santa Cruz and elsewhere.

Since the death of Margaret Mead, the IIS devoted much of its resources to the preservation and accessibility of Mead's work and the papers of several other anthropologists in her collection, amounting to some half million items now in the Library of Congress. Beginning in 1997 and through the end of 2001, Mead2001 Centennial brought her work to a new generation, and included the reissue of many of her books. We were also involved in the reissue of books by Gregory Bateson and in the centennial of his birth in 2004. These centennial celebrations, for Mead in 2001 and for Gregory Bateson in 2004, led to multiple conferences around the world, the reissue of some twenty books, as well as new publications and the stimulus for a new generation of researchers.

New directions in recent years built on the Institute's tradition and on Margaret Mead's own work, and at the same time enabled us to partner with other organizations. One thing we have been committed to is an increased focus on the kind of research in contemporary cultures which she pioneered, as reflected in the series of books recently reissued by Berghahn Books. In recent years the IIS continued Mead's basic research interests by sponsoring workshops on youth, following Mead's long term insistence on including young people in the process. The Current Projects page provides more information on recent IIS activities as well as initiatives we will continue to undertake outside of the IIS structure.

Although the IIS has been dissolved as of December 2009, its legacy continues. The IIS website will continue to provide an archive of information, resources, and past activities.

Board of Directors 2009
Mary Catherine Bateson, President
James I. Magid, Treasurer
William Beeman, Secretary

Advisory Board 2009
Elaine Charnov
Harold Conklin
Wilton S. Dillon
Paul Epstein
Kai Erikson
Renee C. Fox
Franklin G. Hunt
Sevanne Kassarjian
Dean Morse
The Very Rev. James Morton
Lynne Rosansky
Maria Striar
Deborah Tannen

Past members of the IIS Board include Gregory Bateson, Ruth Benedict, Lyman Bryson, Edwin Embree, Lawrence K. Frank, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, Clyde Kluckholn, Dorothy D, Lee, Maurice Levine, Walter Modell, The Rt. Rev. J.B. Moseley, Philleo Nash, Lita Osmundsen, Roy A. Rappaport, Barbara Honeyman Roll and Fred Roll.

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Thank you for your interest in the Institute for Intercultural Studies . We encourage you to use this website to connect to the many resources available to answer your inquiry about Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and their intellectual legacy.  However, The Institute for Intercultural Studies, founded by Margaret Mead in 1944, has closed its doors as of December 31, 2009; no further contact information is available.  For contact about permissions please see the Publishing Permission or Literary Rights section of the website.

©1999-2009 The Institute for Intercultural Studies, Inc.
All rights reserved. Mead/Bateson photo ©Fred Roll.