The study of fishbowls is cultural anthropology

While anthropology is the study of man, fishbowl is a metaphor for chosen insularity by a group of people whether the circumscription limits race, religion, nation, culture, society, or peer group.  Consider Little Italy, China Town, and Harlem–all fishbowls in the larger society of New York City.  Consider the popular group, the nerds, the druggies–all fishbowls in high schools across the nation.

Insularity in a fishbowl feels safe and comfortable, and might give one a sense of superiority over those in other fishbowls. But nothing much happens–things can get a little stagnant in the good ol’ fishbowl when there is no inlet or outlet for human cross-pollination.

I can think offhand of four ways to diffuse human insularity:  Reading, travel, acculturation, and individuation.  All four build tolerance of The Other, appreciation of The Other, flexible psychological boundaries, and a higher perspective than the fish who doesn’t know he’s swimming in water.  The fish still living in the Age of Pisces.


Author: Katherine Brittain

Writer/Cultural Anthropologist

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