Universal Sharing and the Importance of Relationships: "I Know You!"
Among the Swahili, universally shared procedural understandings are mainly limited to such behaviors as not appearing naked in public. There is, however, universal, or nearly universal, sharing of another order of understanding. As seen in chapter 4, members of the Swahili community are quite uniform in their attachment to and concern about certain relationships. Individuals differ to some extent about which particular relationships are more important to them than others. They also differ in the intensity of their commitment to the relationships they find most important. Despite these differences, everyone has some relationships in which his or her behavior points to their being understood as having deep emotional and/or social significance.
In every case I know about, all such relationships are based on kinship, marriage, and neighborhood. These are the relationships to which people devote most of their energy and attention and the evaluations of partners in them are generally the most weighty and lasting in effect. The broad importance for culture's dynamics of the expectations that are the bases for evaluation in these relationships can hardly be overemphasized. It is a central hypothesis of this study that these expectations in multiplex relationships are fundamental not only to those relationships but to the processes that make culture an effective base for individual and community life.