Recognizing Aibu: Different Ideals and Different Agents
In Mombasa Swahili society, what is shameful depends in many instances on both the statuses of the actor whose behavior is being judged and on the statuses of those understood by that actor to be the judges. This implies that there need not be a single list of universally shared values or rules whose violation is aibu to all group members, that culture need not be uniform.
Further, the status-centered view of shame also implies that its cultural foundations include more than the understandings whose violation is shameful. Since the statuses of the judges and the judged are vital, the cultural bases for these status categories must also be included as part of shame's apparatus. Chief among these status constituents are the expectations that are the bases for judgment. Since it is through the expectations in the judging and judged categories and the salience understandings that brings these to bear on a particular judgment, the cultural distribution that constitutes the categories is central to the operation of shame. The nature of social structure, in other words, is a vital part of shame.
The understandings shared in the community provide the broad foundation for shame, but only a small minority of these understandings produce the possibility of shame for everyone, automatically. The rest bring shame only to occupants of some statuses when their actions are judged by occupants of some, but not all, of the statuses in relationships with them. Thus, what is
possibly shameful is in part a result of the community's social structure and the places of the judges and judged within it.