Under the Sea and Society

Little Mermaid Eric and ariel

Julian Steward brought together the study of cultural ecology into a different light. Cultural ecology is the way of viewing the cultural practices around a society and seeing how the individuals of the society alter their previous behavior to their newly changed environmental surrounds. Julian Steward says that cultural ecology “distinguishes different kinds of sociocultural systems and institutions, it recognizes both cooperation and competition as processes of interaction, and it postures that environmental adaptations depend on the technology, needs and structure and on the nature of the environment.” (Moberg 2013:229) With this in mind we can recognize that Steward looks at the environmental factors that could shape our way of adapting to new areas. This can be applied to many different situations, especially in Disney movies.
I like to relate Stewards work to Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, as ridiculous as this sounds, let me just explain…the easiest way to view Stewards work is to look at Ariel’s transformation from mermaid to human. She desperately wants to change so she can be with her beloved Prince Eric and experience everything that human’s experience. So what does she do? She makes a deal to get legs, but at the cost of her own voice. I can say that this can also be related to many choices that people make while changing their environments, they might get what they want, but in the end lose something else in its place. It was Ariel’s culture to live in the sea even though she changed environments she still had to adapt to the land. With her new surrounding Ariel had to learn now to walk, dress and eat like a human. Ariel adapted well to her new surroundings, well after a few issues with getting her voice back, but all in all I believe this a good comparison to use with Stewards theory.
Steward also stated that the culture core of a society has an affect on the society, as well as the cultural ecology. The culture core is looking at “…two societies that have adapted to similar environments with similar culture cores, other aspects of their environment should be similar as well.”(Moberg 2013:220) Back to the Ariel, the different environments she was apart of both have similar parts, although one is underwater and the other is on land, both ecosystems have individuals living and using the environment for survival.

Although I sure Steward didn’t intend for his work to be associated with a Disney movie, it’s a comparison that can be used to explain his theory from a more recent time and generation, plus it’s just fun to watch Disney movies in general!

*Helena Biehn

Why did Steward cross the road?………Due to the environment he had to culturally adapt to a migratory pattern!

eric and arialReference-

Moberg, Mark. Engaging Anthropological Theory: A Social and Political History.

London: Routledge, 2013.


Boxed and Labeled


Idiographic study is looking at individual facts and evaluating these facts on a much deeper level. This is the way Boas did how much of archeological work. He wanted very precise work to be done not only for his own personal studies but for his student’s studies as well.

I think that archeological work today might be a bit different if it wasn’t for Boas and his inventive new ways of thinking about people in the world not just as things that needed to be categorized and labeled, but as human beings with different thoughts and ideas about everyday life. In Boas’ time archeological work being done tended to be more about just placing people in certain categories, these categories contained people and cultures that were grouped together based off of certain similarities. “Culture is a thing, a thing in itself that cannot be reduced to other factors of life.” (Moberg:145) This simple yet effective quote tells of culture being something that is bigger than it seems, we as a society cannot group and categorize cultures especially the people in those cultures and try to place them into small boxes.

Culture is an every changing phenomenon that cannot be contained. Boas took the standards of his time and flipped them upside down, instead of looking at nonwestern cultures as something strange and out of the ordinary, Boas looked at the nonwestern cultures with the same respect he held for his own culture. Each and every culture in the world is very different, from the people who participate in the practices, rituals, and beliefs to the anthropologist who is studying a culture. To explain the picture associated with this post, each of the masks are different and have their own special meaning. Just like the masks people are different in their own special way, thus meaning that we as a society need to look less at the outside but more on the inside to find a deeper meaning to the world around us.

-Helena Biehn


All Nurture, No Nature. Written by Helena Biehn


The Nature verse Nurture debate has been around for years but can we really pit these two things against each other for much longer? I mean if we are to look at society or even ourselves and say “I look like this because of nature” or “I act like this because of nurture” then we are setting ourselves up for certain categories. The categories that we seem to create all have too high of standards and result in people not feeling good about themselves.  It’s almost as if the standards at which we set for ourselves become the stereotypes by which we live our life’s.  By placing others into stereotypes of how we want to see them, we are giving the nature of our actions the hold of what we see.   So can we say that it is just the nature of how people look at others too categorize and stereotype them to make ourselves well better? No, I don’t believe this to be true my theory is that every experience, action, event, feeling and attitude a person maybe have is based on nurture. The way that we stereotype others is based off of what we have experienced in our lives and we just make the assumption that the categories are the correct ones.  People are nurtured by their certain experiences they have had or experiences that have been perceived on by others.

My first example is that if a child is raised with all the right in settings and conditions of a loving and caring home with a parent or parents or even another family member the child is mostly likely to grow up also being a loving and caring person. Although if the child experiences something in their life that changes the family situation then the child’s experience can change the way they grow up and view certain situations. Now if a child were to be raised in a not so steady home environment then they might have a different experience that enables them to grow up and relive or repeat the same experiences that they had as a child. Unless there again is another experience that changes the child’s life for the better.

Our experiences in life shape and create who we become later on in life. It’s from my understanding that people are made, not born who they may become in life. A person is not born a leader but they can have experiences in their life that shape them into a leader.

My second example is that a person can be placed in certain circumstances in which that have to adapt to the new environment. Take Disney’s Tarzan, Tarzan was born with parents who were going to raise him in a society of other people just as they had been raised, but certain events and circumstances arose that hindered Tarzan from being raised with his parents. As Tarzan’s environment changed he became part of a family of gorillas who raised him as his own. Instead of going to school and learning about science and math, Tarzan learned how to climb trees and swing from vines. Tarzan’s experiences in his life shaped him to not only be “part” gorilla but also have the understanding of human actions.  Tarzan’s way of life was changed but he still was a human living in a different setting that allowed him to learn and be nurtured to adapt to the new environment.

An experience a person has provides the foundation for who they become in life. Those actions and events that shape a person can change based on different situations that they have.