Mary Catherine Bateson Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of distinguished anthropologists Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, maintained a close relationship with both parents, despite their frequent absences as they pursued careers and then divorced in 1950. In 1956 Bateson decided to spend her senior high school year in Israel, learning Hebrew and Arabic. At Radcliffe College she concentrated on Arabic, graduating magna cum laude in 1960. That year Bateson married Barkev Kassarjian, a student in the Harvard Business School. In 1963 she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics and Near Eastern studies; her dissertation analyzed five pre-Islamic poems. From 1963 to 1966 she was an instructor in Arabic at Harvard.

Bateson accompanied her husband to the Philippines in 1966, when he accepted a position advising on management education. Realizing there was no demand for Arabic, she moved into the field of cultural anthropology, which she taught at the Ateneo de Manila University from 1966 to 1968. While in the Philippines, she had a son who died; her daughter, Sevanne Margaret, was born in 1969 after Bateson’s return to the United States.

When her husband accepted an offer, in 1972, to join the Iran Center for Management Studies in Tehran, Bateson and their daughter accompanied him. Bateson taught anthropology and assisted in establishing new universities in the interior of Iran. The family returned to the United States in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution broke out.

In 1980 Bateson became dean of faculty at Amherst College. The experience proved a bitter one. She did not feel that tenured faculty at the newly...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bateson, Mary Catherine. “Mary Catherine Bateson.” Interview by Missy Daniel. Publishers Weekly 241 (May 30, 1994): 31-32. Interview with Bateson upon publication of Peripheral Visions.

Bateson, Mary Catherine. “My Mother, My Daughter.” Interview by Diane Granat. Washingtonian 30 (May, 1995): 56-59. Interview in which Bateson reflects on her career and family life.

Mead, Margaret. Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years. New York: William Morrow, 1972. Part 3 describes Mead’s relationship with her daughter and granddaughter.

O’Reilly, Jane. “Any Woman Is an Outsider.” The New York Times Book Review, November 26, 1989, p. 7. Feminist review of Composing a Life.

Warrick, Pamela. “Piecing Together a Lifetime of Success Books.” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1991, sec. E, pp. 1, 4. Describes the critical and popular reception of Composing a Life.