Uncultural Behavior: An Anthropological Investigation of Suicide in the Southern Philippines
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328pp. November 2006
Uncultural Behavior: An Anthropological Investigation of Suicide in the Southern Philippines
Author: Macdonald, Charles J-H;
Until recently the people of Kulbi-Kenipaqan lived on the fringes of the modern world following traditional customs and beliefs, practicing shifting agriculture, and leading an outwardly peaceful existence in a remote corner of Palawan island. Yet this small community, basically indistinguishable in society and culture from its immediate neighbors to the north, has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. Why would the comparatively happy and well-off inhabitants of Kulbi fall victim to despair? Uncultural Behavior investigates the mystery of self-inflicted death among this nonviolent and orderly people in the Southern Philippines.

To make sense of such a phenomenon, Charles Macdonald probes the beliefs, customs, and general disposition of this Palawan people, exploring how they live, think, behave, and relate to one another. Early chapters examine group formation and the spatialization of social ties, material culture, marriage, and law, providing an extensive ethnographic account of the Kulbi way of life. The author offers insights into the spiritual world of the community and addresses the local theory of emotions and the words that supply the vocabulary and idiom of indigenous commentaries on suicide. A well-documented case study of a suicide and its aftermath gives readers an idea of how Kulbi people treat suicide and their conflicting views on the subject. Following an analysis of statistical information, the author presents five "profiles," bringing together motivations, actors, and circumstances. He concludes by examining the perspectives of neurobiology and genetics as well as psychology, sociology, and history.

45 illus.
Kyoto Monograph Series, No. 21
Published in association with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

"Well written and illuminating.” —Australian Journal of Anthropology (19:1, 2008)
Author: Macdonald, Charles J-H;
Charles J-H Macdonald is a social anthropologist specializing in the Philippines and Southeast Asia and a senior research fellow with the French national center for scientific research (CNRS).
Read the introduction (PDF).



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