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I have an interesting question, and I need help finding the answer!

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#1
Epic

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Hi,

I am representing Epic Theatre Ensemble, an Off-Broadway theatre company.

I am in the midst of research for a new play that Epic will produce in the fall, called Mahida's Extra Key to Heaven

Mahida uses a love story between a young American man and Iranian woman to focus attention on the nature of geographic, political, and human borders. The play is set on an island somewhere in the United States, and the island setting is significant because it governs the atmosphere of the play, and how the characters act.

I have been asked to figure out how the human mind acts differently when one lives on an island vs. when one lives landlocked by political borders.

If anyone knows, or would just like to speculate, it would be a wonderful help! I have tried asking several professors (of a variety of academic departments such as Psychology, Geography, Sociology, and Anthropology) at Columbia, NYU, Princeton, and Rutgers, and so far have had no luck.

I really appreciate any answer!

Thank you,

Epic

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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Now that's a truly epic question ;)

I'm not sure whether this is the right place to ask it though. My gut feeling would say it's more a psychology question.

Having said that, I do want to point out that for some reason I feel more 'okay' at places which have some major geographical boundaries close by, like a river or the sea. It helps me "position" the place, and myself within that space, better.
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#3
Epic

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Now that's a truly epic question ;)

I'm not sure whether this is the right place to ask it though. My gut feeling would say it's more a psychology question.

Having said that, I do want to point out that for some reason I feel more 'okay' at places which have some major geographical boundaries close by, like a river or the sea. It helps me "position" the place, and myself within that space, better.


Haha, I know it is! The chair of the Psychology Dept. at Columbia told me it was a Sociology question. (And that I should google it.)

Thank you for replying, and thank you so much for replying on my other topic!!

#4
DaveB

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Interesting question and interesting comment, Hans!

I grew up in southern California and always felt kind of limited in a way. If you just wanted to take off and explore in your car you couldn't go very far west before you had to turn north or south. You couldn't go very far south if you wanted to stay in the US. I've always thought it would feel even more restricted if you lived on a smaller island. On the other hand, traveling around in the UK for example I felt like there were more possibilities (maybe because I haven't spent much time there or maybe because there's so much scenery, history, etc., packed into the place - and you can still travel for hours without hitting a coast). But on even smaller islands I suspect it would feel even harder to "get away".

I guess a lot will depend on the individual's experiences, mindset, etc.
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#5
James Hines

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Wasn't there a true event between an American soldier & a Saudi Arabia princess? Maybe that's what you should look at as an example.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#6
David Medeiros

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As someone who was born and raised on an island (Kauai) and a geographer I feel uniquely qualified to opine on your question ;)

From my perspective I have always seen living on an island (in my case one very much isolated from any other major land) as giving me a BIG world view, as contradictory as that may seem. Viewing the immense and largely empty Pacific Ocean on a constant basis, seeing the finite physical border to your home at the ocean’s edge, you know instinctively where you are in the world and how vast the world is. I don’t know anything about living in a “political island” of any kind but I do know that when I am away from the ocean I lose my sense of scale. Even in a vast landscape, I feel like the world is smaller than it is, or that my location is bounded somehow, even though there is no nearby physical end to it as with an island.

I have observed anecdotally that people I meet who live on the mainland (and have not travelled extensively), in a small town or a large metropolitan area, often have a more closed or limited view of the world, even though they grew up with more terrain to cover. What is “far” to them often seems trivial to me. And I have noted that they may be less familiar with nearby locations than I was with my island.

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#7
Epic

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Wasn't there a true event between an American soldier & a Saudi Arabia princess? Maybe that's what you should look at as an example.


I've never heard of that. Do you know when in time that might have happened?

Thank you!

#8
Epic

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As someone who was born and raised on an island (Kauai) and a geographer I feel uniquely qualified to opine on your question ;)

From my perspective I have always seen living on an island (in my case one very much isolated from any other major land) as giving me a BIG world view, as contradictory as that may seem. Viewing the immense and largely empty Pacific Ocean on a constant basis, seeing the finite physical border to your home at the ocean’s edge, you know instinctively where you are in the world and how vast the world is. I don’t know anything about living in a “political island” of any kind but I do know that when I am away from the ocean I lose my sense of scale. Even in a vast landscape, I feel like the world is smaller than it is, or that my location is bounded somehow, even though there is no nearby physical end to it as with an island.

I have observed anecdotally that people I meet who live on the mainland (and have not travelled extensively), in a small town or a large metropolitan area, often have a more closed or limited view of the world, even though they grew up with more terrain to cover. What is “far” to them often seems trivial to me. And I have noted that they may be less familiar with nearby locations than I was with my island.


That is really interesting. And makes me think a lot. I think I should re read the play too. Thank you!

#9
Epic

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I've come back and re read everything here. I guess, I would like to hear more about what everyone has to say, or thinks about different types of borders (water/land/political), and how it impacts the "comfort zone." I know you guys arent psychologists, but opinions and personal stories are welcome!

Thanks!!

#10
Matthew Hampton

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My perspective on this comes from an undergraduate degree in Soc/Anth and an MS in Geog. and reflecting on my many visits to the San Juan Islands in Washington (primarily Lopez Island). The Lopezians have adopted several behaviors that are somewhat unique to island life. For one, every car you pass on the road you are obligated to wave. This can be as simple as the subtle "two-finger lift" or a full hand-wave gesture. I think this lends itself to the understanding that on an island, everyone is more closely connected (locked together) and thus the culture has adopted a mannerism that enforces community harmony. I also noted "Island Time" wherein stated appointments always occurred about 30-40 minutes late, owing to the laid back "we are on our own schedule" sentiment and natural rhythm of living in a geographically isolated space. One other observation I had is the self-sufficiency and multi-talented populous. When you live in an isolated place you don't always have the specialists who focus on on trade. The island cartographer for instance may also be the school bus driver, the plumber and the hay baler.

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#11
David Medeiros

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My perspective on this comes from an undergraduate degree in Soc/Anth and an MS in Geog. and reflecting on my many visits to the San Juan Islands in Washington (primarily Lopez Island). The Lopezians have adopted several behaviors that are somewhat unique to island life. For one, every car you pass on the road you are obligated to wave. This can be as simple as the subtle "two-finger lift" or a full hand-wave gesture. I think this lends itself to the understanding that on an island, everyone is more closely connected (locked together) and thus the culture has adopted a mannerism that enforces community harmony. I also noted "Island Time" wherein stated appointments always occurred about 30-40 minutes late, owing to the laid back "we are on our own schedule" sentiment and natural rhythm of living in a geographically isolated space. One other observation I had is the self-sufficiency and multi-talented populous. When you live in an isolated place you don't always have the specialists who focus on on trade. The island cartographer for instance may also be the school bus driver, the plumber and the hay baler.


I don't think your experince is unique to the San Juans but may be particular to islands in gerenal. This is from an old Dave Barry column on travelling to Kauai:

"When you're driving in Kauai, other motorists constantly yield to you. You get the impression that there are Kauaians who just like to drive around yielding, as a hobby. Sometimes they yield AND wave AND smile. This is in stark contrast to the situation in Miami, where drivers would cut off the popemobile."

http://apoipuoceanfr.../apofdbarry.htm

I can attest to the veracity of his statements, Hawaiian's always stop to let you into traffic. And giving a wave of gratitudde is mandatory. Not so on the mainland.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#12
Kartograph

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I know of some works by social geographers on West-Berlin during the cold war. All in German, sadly.

You might find a lot by US Geographers who are doing mobility and leasiure time analysis. Also, the racial questions in the US have produced some interesting works on spatial mobility, social situation etc. In effect, some neighborhoods are islands.

#13
natcase

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Crisis in Utopia by Peter Munch is about Tristan da Cunha, the most isolated island community in the world, and their reaction to being evacuated to England in 1961 after the volcano that forms their island erupted. I find Tristan fascinating, and this is to me the most readable book about the island.

Island societies vary a lot, even within similar limits of size, population and isolation. Tristanians had a very strong desire to return home, and essentially had to force the hand of Foreign Office (Colonial Office? one of those), for whom it would have been much more convenient to leave the island uninhabited. At the same time, Pitcairn Island in the Pacific was losing population at a terrific rate. This was also a period when many small islands in the Outer Hebrides, and outports in Newfoundland, were becoming depopulated, in part because of loss of services: first the kids go to school on the mainland, then the health service stops servicing the island, then the post office, then it's all over. But some remained inhabited. Someone on them just had the backbone to stand up for their home, I guess, as happened on Tristan.

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I don't think out modern idea of a formal frontier is necessarily the root cause of how we view territory. Boundaries—frontiers—as we know them, are relatively modern inventions. Historically, you had property (my field/your field), and you had group territory (my king/your king), but these group territories had more diffuse definitions. Like travelling from one village to another: you can say I'm out of village #1, but there's no real boundary out in the fields and woods where one village's "sphere of influence" ends. You can bounds of a parish, which are maintained and recorded, but unlike modern boundaries—hard lines between people—I think people's innate understanding of territory has a softer edge, and there are many people who find themselves betwixt and between.

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#14
François Goulet

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I don't think out modern idea of a formal frontier is necessarily the root cause of how we view territory. Boundaries—frontiers—as we know them, are relatively modern inventions. Historically, you had property (my field/your field), and you had group territory (my king/your king), but these group territories had more diffuse definitions. Like travelling from one village to another: you can say I'm out of village #1, but there's no real boundary out in the fields and woods where one village's "sphere of influence" ends. You can bounds of a parish, which are maintained and recorded, but unlike modern boundaries—hard lines between people—I think people's innate understanding of territory has a softer edge, and there are many people who find themselves betwixt and between.


I agree... I remember reading charters from the 12th century or so during my master in history saying that a lord's land was a one horseback day ride to the East and two to the North starting from X point... Your territory was everywhere you could keep control... During the Hundred Years War, in Southwest France, a city could be under English rule, an other in the West under French rule, forming like a "zig-zag" on the map and that area, where castles held by one or the other didn't form a straight line formed the "frontier"... It was a zonal frontier, not a linear one. Fields boundaries could be a stream or a wood, but they change shape over the years so did the boundaries...

#15
ghopdata

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Growing up in the southern most city on the middle island in New Zealand (there is no city on the southern-most island) some observations:
- the biggest imaginable distance is 500 kms, even thinking about other countries, and 500 kms is too far
- fish is really important as a food
- sea is normal and good
- speak a dialect which all other people laugh at and people from other countries have difficulty understanding
- feel rather embarrased that you speak so funny
- can't recognise other languages when you hear them - they are all gibberish and meld together
- understand only the local climate - in this example being so far south and close to Antartica there are various names for cold and types of ice
- impossible to understand other cultures where a different religous system could result in a different culture
- can't see your culture from the outside at all (objectively) - only from the inside (subjectively) which makes change not something you consider doing
New Zealand is saved by a natural curiositywhich kiwis have about other places so many, many kiwis travel, particularly when they are young, and manage to free their heads from the 'island' mentality

Hope something here might be helpful! :)




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