Assuming disparate groups of people live within an indefinitely quarantined area, and initially have a vague notion of someday rejoining the rest of the world, how long would it take for people to decide the "indefinite quarantine" has gone on long enough that they need to plan for the future?

Is there anthropological precedent for this?

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    $\begingroup$ Size of quarantine area? Number of people? Reason for quarantine and conditions of removal? What "future" are you talking about - that of outside quarantine or never getting out? What items of planning for future (what meal to have this evening? What crops to grow? What governance to put in place?) This is just too vague right now. $\endgroup$ – Keeta - reinstate Monica Oct 12 '18 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ that would heavily depend on who's inside, and definition of society. People from same law-abiding country or with large share of military or police will establish order from the start. Hugely different and historically hostile groups will continue fighting until only one group remains. $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Oct 12 '18 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to consider North Korea and Iran for some background perspective and for forming your scope. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 12 '18 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like the most important impact on the answer is the definition of a functional society. Has anyone seen one yet? Anyone? $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Oct 13 '18 at 4:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Tim B II Does a society that has been in continuous existence for 40,000 years count? The irony is, this society WAS quarantined from the rest of the world. Maybe that is why it survived for so long. The indigenous isolated societies in Australia. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 13 '18 at 16:42

Humans form societies everywhere, in any place, with any group, and quite quickly.

If they're being told that they'll be held for an 'indefinite amount of time', I would expect some form of society to appear in a matter of days.

Some enterprising person will decide to make their life comfortable as soon as possible, not caring about a potential release from quarantine at a later date. They'll find some partners who think the same and other people who can help, and they'll get to work by whatever means at their disposition. Brute force being usually the easiest means, as it doesn't anything else than people.

I do not know of any anthropological precedent for your question, but I do know that scientists that study human behavior have found out that we tend to create micro societies everywhere, from the workplace to prisons.


Following on Sava's answer, no matter where and who and how and why, problems will be encountered, conflicts will emerge, opinions & narratives will be aired. In those moments, leaders capable of offering creative approaches, leveraging projects, mediating disputes, on the bright side, or organizing a cadre to impose their will, on the dark side, will arise quickly.

Humans, like most primates, are an intrinsically social species & would not long persist without a social organization / hierarchy arising within the group. Then the question becomes the dynamism among leaders, potential leaders.

Within days is probably about right.


For a cultural anthropological precedent, consider the indigenous peoples of Australia.

They lasted upwards of 50,000 years in almost complete quarantine.

Could you imagine catching that much in one day using only a spear? And then again the next day and the day after that? I said it would be just about impossible. Aboriginal people, she said, have been doing it every day for at least 50,000 years.

For 49,800 of those years they had the continent to themselves. There were once about 250 distinct Aboriginal languages, hundreds more dialects, and many more clans and subgroups. But there is deep spiritual and cultural overlap among them, and indigenous Australians I spoke with said it was not insulting to combine everyone together under the general title of Aboriginal. They call themselves Aboriginals. They lived for a couple of thousand generations in small, nomadic bands, as befits a hunter-gatherer existence, moving in their own rhythms about the vast expanse of Australia.

But you might want to consider the outcome.

Then on April 29, 1770, British explorer James Cook landed his ship, the Endeavour, on the southeastern shore. The next two centuries were a horror show of cultural obliteration—massacres, disease, alcoholism, forced integration, surrender.

From First Australians

What you are asking, in effect, is 'How did the original wanderers, 50,000 years ago, who happened upon this new land, but ended up stranded here with no way back, feel about their prospects of returning to where they came from? And what was their response when they faced the inevitable?'


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