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7 Liking Only Those in Your Eye Relationship Terms, Statuses, and Cultural Models
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Four Kinds of Statuses

Before going further, two distinctions are useful in understanding how statuses operate in Swahili culture. The first of these concerns two different sorts of relationships and the differences in the statuses, especially in their expectations, associated with them. The second distinction concerns the uses of statuses.

Simplex and Multiplex Relationships and the Statuses Involved

The statuses that figure in the kinds of relationships Max Gluckman (1955:19) called "simplex" and those in the relationships he called "multiplex" differ in ways important to culture's operation. A simplex relationship contains expectations that are quite specific in reference and limited in scope. "Bus driver," "passenger," and "sales clerk" are the typical sort of statuses here. The expectations in multiplex relationships cross a number of cultural domains and are usually broad and general rather than specific and concrete. "Mother," "neighbor," and "friend" are typical of the statuses in multiplex relationships.

A status in a multiplex relationship can also be involved in a simplex relationship. A Swahili mother's relationship with her child is undoubtedly multiplex, but her relationship with a physician who is treating her child may


well be simplex even though she is acting and being responded to as a mother in both relationships. The statuses that form the main base of simplex relationships cannot serve as a basis for carrying on a multiplex relationship.

Two Functions of Statuses

The multiplex-simplex distinction, then, concerns the scope and specificity of expectations in statuses. Another important distinction is between statuses as guides for the behavior of those categorized in them and statuses as ways of placing or identifying people.

The guidance function can be seen in, but is by no means limited to, using status categories as a basis for calling for specific sorts of behavior from those categorized. For example, in a pamphlet written in the 1950s by one of the community's most outspoken leaders, he commanded, Rere jamani (Be prideful, family members). This was, I have been told, a demand that his fellow community members, whom he addresses as family members to emphasize their ties to one another and to him, behave themselves according to his somewhat heroic view of how Swahili should act. Similarly, but from the negative side, women sometimes berate one another by saying Si mwanamke, we! (Not a woman, you!) meaning that the object of the phrase is not acting as a woman should. In both cases, the guidance offered is, it appears, salient across a wide range of situations and relationships.

Statuses guide behavior through indicating when they are salient and what expectations they involve. They are not always, of course, presented as explicitly as they are in the above examples. In addition to guiding behavior, statuses also serve to characterize people and to indicate how they are connected to others and to social groups as wholes. Thus, in response to asking friends who someone is, I have often been told things such as, "That is Sheikh Mohammed. He is my neighbor and works for the government."

The two dimensions of statuses—one being the nature of their expectations and salience understandings and the other their use in social placement—each have two varieties that come together to make four combinations. That is, both types of statuses, multiplex and simplex, are used as guides to behavior and both are used in placing and characterizing people. More important for our present purposes, the identifying-characterizing function and the guiding function, though distinguishable, are not independent of one another. Thus, if Sh. Mohammed and my informant had stopped being neighbors (either because one of them moved or my informant felt Sh. Mohammed was not acting as a neighbor should), it is possible he would only have mentioned his name, as sometimes happened when others identified people I asked about.

As concerns both simplex and multiplex statuses,[3] part of the result of placing and characterizing someone can be to provide guidance for behavior


toward him or her. This guide may be directly useful to the one for whom identification is made by suggesting expectations and salience understandings appropriate in dealings with the identified, or it may indicate the identifier's relationship to the one identified, or both. In short, multiplex statuses can usefully be distinguished from simplex, but both types are used both in placement-characterization and in behavior guidance. These latter functions, though separable, often involve one another.

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7 Liking Only Those in Your Eye Relationship Terms, Statuses, and Cultural Models
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