The Instability of Values: Tradition, Autonomy and the Dynamics of Sociality in the Philippine Highlands
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionAnthropological Forum: a journal of social anthropology and comparative sociology. 2021, 31(1), 64-77. 10.1080/00664677.2021.1875196
What can we learn about values and how they shape sociality by looking at a murder? In this article, I look closer at the different and conflicting values involved in the social events leading up to an accidental killing of an outside visitor to a village in the northern highlands of the Philippines. I examine how these values were inherently instable and how this instability contributed to the precarious unfolding of sociality that took place before, during and after the murder. I situate the murder within a dynamic sociality that includes both humans and spirits and which operates as a continuously shifting form of relational configurations. This sociality, I argue, is given shape, although not necessarily order, by context-specific heterogeneous actualisations of values, including tradition and autonomy. Against claims that values exist most forcefully and tangibly in social life when they are realised in full, I argue that events such as the murder case, show us that values shape sociality just as forcefully, if not more, when they are actualised in practice and then run up against other differently actualised values.