Honor and Deference: How Terms Encourage Conformity
The understandings involved in adabu and fakhri provide an important illustration of how interconnected complexes of understandings are manifested in speech and how, in turn, they affect manifest social behavior. A junior who meets the general expectations in behavior toward his seniors is characterized in a positive way by those seniors and is likely to gain preference when there are limited goods at the senior's disposal (e.g., marriage with the senior's daughter).
At the same time, a fairly senior man or woman who has met the expectations in his or her status as adult community member gains fakhri, which leads younger people to behave toward him or her with adabu, thus providing manifest (i.e., behavioral) confirmation of the older person's fakhri. Such demonstration, in turn, wins respect and esteem for the younger person and confirms that he or she has utu (civilization).
To generalize this, and similar processes are involved in terms to be considered below, meeting expectations for positively evaluated behavior by members of one status (adult community member in the example) imposes expectations on relations with occupants of another status (young community member) which, if met, bring rewards to both parties to the relationship. By so doing, the sorts of status expectations central to valued relations are displayed and the merit of conforming to them is demonstrated in observable behavior.
The interconnections of the expectations inherent in fakhri and adabu entail sequences of behavior from different individuals which demonstrate the virtues of both sets of expectations by manifestly (i.e., socially) rewarding them. The expectations involved provide a script, as it were, for converting broad understandings about honor and "good" behavior between individuals of different ages into directly observable action that affects the individual's community standing and, at least in some cases, self-esteem.
Interestingly, for men, I recorded no words for negative aspects of standing in the community. To be without fakhri is less a negative condition than it is lacking a prestigious but nonessential positive one. Such a person may well
be seen as a mwungwana if his genealogy is acceptable (or, at least, not known to be otherwise), and, unless he is known for egregiously violating the standard expectations of the community member status, he will be characterized as such without further qualification. He is just not a prestigious and honored community member.
For women, the situation is rather different. If they do not stage the impressive weddings and funerals that bring fakhri but do attend those of others (and all women do attend), they are said by informants to risk bringing shame (aibu) on themselves. It is only a "risk" of shame because so long as they have an unmarried child or a living parent, the opportunity to meet the honor-bringing expectations still exists. When all chance of meeting expectations has passed, however, the woman who has not held the rituals is likely to be negatively evaluated as a man who has failed to meet equivalent expectations is not.
Adabu, as concerns young people, does not have the optional quality fakhri has for men. Huna adabu (You have no adabu) is a strong reproach when delivered from a senior to a junior. A young man or boy (girls and young women are rarely in situations where such issues arise since they are generally secluded in their houses) who consistently fails to manifest adabu is called a muhuni , a pejorative term concerning failure to meet a range of expectations to be considered below.
A middle-aged man cannot be a muhuni no matter how he acts. Although both fakhri and adabu apply to behavior in general, they refer to different sorts of behavior for members of different statuses and their presence or absence is evaluated according to the status of the person involved. Just as mature men cannot be judged as muhuni, without adabu, children cannot have fakhri. They can only contribute to or detract from that of their parents. Further, women's fakhri comes from different behavior as evaluated by a different audience than men's does.