Identifiers, General Expectations, and More on Models
In communities like the Swahili where a limited number of people spend their lives in the same small area, status assignment is even less fraught with difficulties. When the various status memberships of those around one are well known, the meeting of expectations is simplified. Since the statuses important to much of life in such a community have mainly general, rather than specific, expectations, only limited sharing (in a quantitative sense) is needed for the relationship to proceed fruitfully, that is, the participants meet one another's expectations sufficiently often for them to continue.
There are, in fact, culturally constituted means for encouraging the sort of limited conformity that is called for to meet general expectations. To be competent as judged by peers, a surgeon has to conform quite closely to the technical understandings concerning the work associated with his status, but for a man or a woman to have haya (modesty and concern for the rights of others) calls for no such close agreement between actions and shared understandings. By praising haya, conformity to a variety of distant expectations that are important to the evaluation of individuals in a considerable variety of statuses is encouraged. I will show (chap. 7) that there are a considerable variety of terms in the Swahili language that encourage conformity with the
distant expectations of a range of statuses by providing emotionally potent models of the virtues of conformity and the costs of nonconformity.
It is not that status members in vital statuses such as "mother," "respected man," or "proper child" are led to conform to direct expectations in what they do and how they react but rather that they are encouraged in such general and diffuse conformity as these distant statuses call for. An examination of the Mombasa Swahili terms most applied to admired and, more often, disapproved behavior shows that not only are these terms almost always general in their reference but they are also almost always concerned with social relationships.
Thus, for example, everyone is concerned with fakhri (which can be glossed as "honor"), and it is a main dimension of evaluation and assessment both of how a person acts and of how that person is treated. How people in different statuses, particularly men as contrasted with women, get fakhri and behave to show fakhri, however, depends on the different statuses they occupy. The ways group members use such value-laden terms exerts a pressure for behavior in conformity with expectations that are status specific and, at the same time, of the distant sort that is met by a considerable range of behavior, lessening the need for a full and detailed sharing of understandings between actors and evaluators.