Waorani Grief and the Witch-Killer's Rage: Worldview, Emotion, and Anthropological Explanation

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Abstract

This article analyzes a complex of grief, rage and homicide among the Ecuadorian Waorani, tracing the relationships among worldview, values and concepts of self, and envy, rage and homicide, especially witch-killing. We contrast the results with the position taken by Rosaldo in his widely cited paper “Grief and the Headhunters Rage” (1989). We hold that Waorani individuals' experience of rage during bereavement is not, as argued by Rosaldo for the Ilongot, a thing sui generis, immune to further explanation. Rather, it is explained as a product of people defining their experience on the basis of cultural constructions of self and reality and acting in accord with those definitions. We also argue that this explanation, coupled with the similarities in the Waorani and Ilongot complexes, suggests the operation of similar sociocultural and psychological processes in the two societies and supports, contra the assertions of postmodernists and others, the continued value and validity of cross-cultural comparative research.

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