Cultural sustainability is the capacity of groups of people to develop and maintain modes of living on their own terms through knowledge, practices, social networks, and objects that hold significance for them. Over several centuries, the regions through which SEA vessels sail have experienced dramatic changes from European and American mariners, missionaries, colonial governments, and migrations. New species of plants and animals were introduced, agriculture and fishing techniques altered, trading networks expanded, and community demographics impacted. SEA Semester students examine relationships between people and their environment, appreciating the myriad ways current practices are firmly rooted in tradition while wrestling with the challenge of defining and applying concepts of cultural sustainability in the face of shifting global and regional processes. Student research methods include participant observation, such as attending ceremonies and joining people in their everyday activities, conducting structured individual and group interviews, and collecting photographic and audio-visual data.
Everyday and special practices
Sustainability is first and foremost about the everyday economic and subsistence livelihoods of individuals and communities in their local natural environments. In the places visited by SEA Semester, practices of the everyday (productions and purchases of food, clothing, housing, and medical care) are informed by systems of belief, value, and property. These systems also guide the ritual and ceremonial life of a sustainable culture – the practices that mark the sacred, the transitional, and the extraordinary.Selected Everyday and special practices papers and publications
SEA Semester students comprehend the notion that “every language is a rainforest of possibilities” – that locally significant modes of communication and expression inform how people know and interact with their natural and social worlds. As they engage with issues of cultural sustainability, SEA students investigate and incorporate local terms and idioms in their research while acknowledging what must remain “lost in translation” across distinct systems of meaning.Selected Language papers and publications
Places and material culture
Culture manifests most perceptibly in people’s interactions within places and with artifacts. Sacred places, like tribal grounds and battlefields, and objects, such as fishing gear and bodily adornment conveying status or group identity, evidence a culture sustained through its material expressions. SEA Semester students encounter significant places and objects as meaningful statements of what people wish to convey to others regarding their cultural self-identity.Selected Places and material culture papers and publications
People connect with each other through a variety of socially-mediated processes (marriage, trade, and cooperative labor, for example) as well as through shared symbolic systems such as religion. Globalized economies and rapid technological changes threaten to disrupt the bases for social connections but also present opportunities for new modes of interpersonal exchange and cultural sustainability. SEA Semester students explore the shifting character of human social networks within the context of a dynamic ocean environment.Selected Social networks papers and publications
Traditional and local knowledge
Sustainable cultures require means of preserving and imparting highly adaptable skill sets that are learned and passed on. SEA Semester students research knowledge of traditional navigation, art, subsistence fishing and gardening, transformations of raw materials into functional products, and local human and natural histories. Sustainable ways of knowing also include the often understated modes of adaptation to changing environmental conditions that are increasingly vital to community well-being.Selected Traditional and local knowledge papers and publications
Selected student research
Franklin, C., H. Marty and A. Vigdorchik, 2015. Intersections of Traditional and Contemporary Pacific Medicine. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Houlihan, E., 2015. The Role of Traditional Knowledge in Rural Responses to Sea Level Rise in Fiji and Wallis. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Remo, A., 2015. Sacred Ecology and the Shifting Polynesian Identity. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Losco, C., 2015. Blending New Technology and Social Cohesion in Samoa. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Jamieson, E., 2015. Fa'afafine Experiences of Social Recognition and Inclusion in Samoa, American Samoa and New Zealand. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Chen, K., 2015. Coconuts: Ambrosia of the South Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Gestal, M., 2015. Sports as Cultural Preservation for the Polynesian People. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Wilson, M., 2015. Traditional Fishing Techniques in Fiji: A Review of Sustainability in Fijian Fisheries. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Anastas, A., 2015. The Sustainability of Inshore Commercial Fisheries in Samoa and Fiji. Unpublished student research paper, S-262, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Reasonda, N., 2015. Science, Anthropology and Bush Tea: A Holistic Approach to the Conservation of Traditional Medicine in the Caribbean. Unpublished student research paper, C-257, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Hiura, T., 2015. Education Assessment, Employment Challenges and Standardized Curriculum in the Caribbean. Unpublished student research paper, C-257, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Foley, R., 2015. The Agrarian Vision: Farming Our Way to a Better Economy. Unpublished student research paper, C-257, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Godfrey, Z., 2014. Caribbean Creole: From Slave Language to Vernacular. Unpublished student research paper, C-256, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Williams, S., 2015. The Track and Feasibility of Food Sustainability in Fiji. Unpublished student research paper, S-255, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Maskus, E., 2014. Evolution of Va'a Racing in French Polynesia. Unpublished student research paper, S-251, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Finkenauer, A., 2014. Paddling On: An Analysis of Traditional Fishing Canoes in French Polynesia. Unpublished student research paper, S-251, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Giorgi, G., 2013. Gender Differences Present in Native Caribbean Societies. Unpublished student research paper, C-250, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Reade, J., 2013. Breadfruit: The Irreplaceable Resource. SPICE Atlas student research paper, Class S-245, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Pyda, P., 2012. Uses and Perceptions of Chocolate in Amerindian and European Cultures. Unpublished student research paper, C-244, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
* SEA faculty and staff
^ SEA Semester alumnus
Flashback: The Sounds of an UmuPosted on: October 17, 2017
In latest episode of our SEA Stories podcast, join the students of S-275 as they participate in an Umu, a traditional Samoan feast prepared in an earth oven. Visit a tropical garden and learn about the importance of tattoo in Samoan culture.Read More
Celebration, Umu StylePosted on: September 27, 2017
By: Alison Derevensky, A Watch, Macaulay Honors CUNY Brooklyn College
For our last full day ashore at Pago Pago, American Samoa, S-275 went to a traditional Samoan umu at Reg and Su’a Wilson’s beautiful home. They are good friends of SEA Semester and are educators here on the island where they grew up and currently live on Reg’s family land. An umu is a feast that Samoans prepare typically every Sunday, and it’s kind of like our Sunday dinner or Thanksgiving, depending on how big your Sunday dinners are.Read More
Reflections on PIPAPosted on: July 29, 2017
By: Nic Rummel, C Watch, Colorado School of Mines
Hello all ye land lovers. Things are going well for us out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We have had a good last few days with our fair share of scientific deployments and sail handling. It has been a particular pleasure of mine to finally participate in the full work load. At first, I had an unfortunately severe amount of complications from sea sickness. guess that is what a mountain man gets for trying to be a sailor.Read More
SEA Semester’s Polynesia voyage is perfect fit for Drew University studentPosted on: December 06, 2016
SEA Semester in the News
Drew Sophomore Studies Ecosystems and Sustainability in Polynesia
Marina Mozak sails on a tall ship research vessel
December 2016 – Drew University student Marina Mozak bid a temporary farewell to The Forest to spend a semester at sea.
Mozak, a sophomore studying environmental science and political science, was among 25 students who studied ecosystems and sustainability in Polynesian island cultures aboard a tall ship research vessel, the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Other schools represented on the trip included the University of Virginia, Wellesley College, Vassar College and Villanova University.
The program, run by the Sea Education Association, began in August with preparatory course work in Woods Hole, Mass. From there, Mozak and her peers traveled to American Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and disembarked for a final time in Auckland, New Zealand last month. Mozak also wrote about life on a ship via the program’s blog, SEA Currents.
Read the FULL STORY.
Field trip to Waimea ValleyPosted on: June 06, 2015
By: Katie Hoots, Vassar College
When we went to Waimea Valley, we were able to see and experience in person a taste of the ancient Hawai’ian culture and practices that we had studied in the classroom. Every person we talk to enriches our understanding of the deep connections between the resource management and spirituality of the ancient Hawai’ian’s. Kaila Alva (education and outreach coordinator), who works at Waimea Valley, taught us about the sacredness and importance of the Ahupua’a watershed system and the work that she and others are doing to preserve it today.Read More
Smithsonian Institution’s Recovering Voices Project
Project researching intergenerational knowledge transfer and supporting existing community initiatives focusing on language and knowledge sustainability
Story Corps’ Online Archive of Audio and Visual Storytelling
Aims “to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters”
Sharing Stories Foundation, Australia
“Supports the maintenance and strengthening of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures and languages via innovative, community based digital storytelling programs, work with senior cultural custodians to map Song Cycles and Ancestral Creation tracks on Country, and develop interactive digital platforms to hold language and culture for future generations”
Human Relations Area Files, Yale University
An online database of ethnographic material, to “encourage and facilitate the cross-cultural study of human culture, society and behavior in the past and present”
COST Action IS1007 Investigating Cultural Sustainability Project
A European research network focused on multidisciplinary approaches to understanding the relationship between culture and sustainable development