A Semantic Analysis of the Social Construction of Emotions and their Patterning into Pathan World View and Institutions
N.B. I am adding this paper to the TaleTwist site in the wake of the tragedy In
And if, as I believe, they are not, it is
equally important to understand why they do what they do.
Understanding is an essential step to peace.
This paper was inspired by a comment made by Klaus Krippendorff in which he suggested (referring to an article by Averill ) that Dante had “discovered” love. While it is understood that the word “discovered” is meant in a most loose sense, Averill still intimates that a higher level of this emotion evolved at about this time in sort of a Piagetian response to other cognitive developments, i.e., “discovery of self”. It is the underlying hypothesis of this paper that human capacity for emotion, just as it capacity for thought, physical action, etc. are channeled and manipulated by societal constructs and in fact become what we know as society.
It is my belief that the
“romantic” concept of love may well, as Averill suggests, have surfaced in European
societies in the time of Dante. It was at this time (the latter half of the
thirteenth century) that
It is to this quarter that I now turn to investigate—through a semantic analysis—how societies, through the mechanism of culture, shape neurophysical responses (i.e., emotion) to suit a particular environmental challenge. The study follows the approach that certain “scenario words” (Quinn, 1985) have embedded within them a degree of cultural understanding. In unlocking their meaning we will uncover the meaning of a culture and what it is to be a member of that culture. It is such terms that bind a culture—forming the channels for what is, as Roger Keesing (1974: 77) asserts, the nature of culture: “a system of knowledge”. Together these “scenario words” simultaneously frame and generate culturally appropriate goals crucial to the processes of understanding, expectation and planning (Quinn, 1985).
While, at first, I envisioned a cross-cultural
approach, investigating how a number of societies have shaped the emotion of
“love”, I have narrowed my focus to the concept within a single cultural
milieu—the Pushtun/Paktun tribes of the
I am attempting through semantic
analysis to construct, in part, a cognitive map of the “ideal” Pathan conceptual reality.
It is my intention to “set the
stage” for a later correlation of
such world view with contemporary (and possibly future) behavior patterns of
these people in resistance to the
Love in the Pathan world has evolved in just this way. It is without doubt a major civilizing process. At the same time, due to other elements in the social framework, it has become distorted into a mirror negative image. This paper will examine the manner in which environment (in its broadest sense) has shaped society which in turn has patterned human behavior—a behavior which then reifies and eventually distorts the initial social purposes for the emotions structure.
THEORETICAL ISSUES: Cultural patterning of cognition into world view
It is my belief, along with Edmund Leach, that social structure is not organic, having a life of its own, but rather arises out of direct human needs, the creation of humankind, not the “Creator”. It is part of a feedback process interacting with perception and cognition. The important question is not, which came first; we might as well argue as to the number of angels on the head of a pin. Rather, we must come to understand the true interdependency, and to realize that to ignore any aspect of the environmental/ perceptual/cognitive/cultural relationship is to fail to understand the dialectical nature of human existence.
Since the nature and degree of the cultural patterning of cognition is a major consideration of this paper, it is only appropriate that I set forth a general overview of cognition itself. Cognition is the method or process by which we deal with perceptual inputs, how we come to know, how we store and retrieve this information, and how we then interpret it as the basis of action—the processing of information in preparation for response. It represents part of a continuum that begins in the interaction with external stimuli of physical energy and continues in feedback cycles with such stimuli for the full life span of its biological life-form—what I term, the anthropo-environmental continuum.
For the purpose of contemporary ethnoscience, western focus began with the seminal speculation of Karl Wilhelm von Humboldt in the nineteenth century. Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir—whose empiricist theories came to dominate modern anthropological linguistics, elaborated this realization that language, its acquisition and utilization, might reveal the thought process. Among these theories is the belief that all languages are functionally equal and that:
It was found that the background linguistic system (in other words, the grammar) of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas, the program and guide for the individual’s mental activity, for his analysis of impression, for his synthesis of his mental stock and trade. (Whorf, 1956: 212)
In other words, Whorf asserts that language shapes thought. As language is but one facet of culture, it is my assumption that this belief must be extended to the conception that culture controls or shapes thought. Personally, I can accept this only as a contributory not a controlling factor.
Opposed to these empirically based, social determinist views, was the rationalist approach of Jean Piaget whose research focused on the developmental cognitive process of children from birth. In his opinion, children speak from need, thought comes first and then children learn, through trial and error, which label will successfully express the thought. These labels or words do not refer to things but to an understanding of things. Children distort language to conform to their own mental structure. Specifically, sensory schemata, not language are the initial motivators for progressive conceptualization. To quote Christopher Hallpike:
…we shall find that a basic principle of cognitive development is that the organization of behavior and perception is always prior to the capacity to represent one’s actions and the behavior of objects by means of a language. (Hallpike, 1979: 11).
In conclusions, drawn from an empirical study on mulusks, Jean Piaget suggested that the mind is but an extension of biological functioning and that its development is but a continuation of the selective adaptation process carried to the next (and most logically efficient) dimension. While biological adaptation (in its traditional sense) takes place only over an extended period of time, the human mind can adapt quickly, thus providing the human species with a decided edge.
Piaget proposed that we arrive with templates of cognition, which in a dialectical process with the environmental and cultural factors are stimulated into successively higher periods and stages. Thus we are provided with a framework from which we can begin to grasp the complexity of cognitive development. The brain possesses an innate operating system (rather than explicit genetic programs, i.e., representations of time and space, memory, causal and logical inference, etc.), which is continually being modified through a dialectic process, not only with the physical and social environment, but also with the brain’s representation of such environments, i.e., world view. From this point it is not too difficult to envision how cultural differences could lead to cognitive differences that in turn enter into a potentially endless cycle of feedback and reification.
As these stages are, in part, responses to the stimuli of environmental challenge it is conceivable that where there is an absence of challenge, there too will be an absence of growth. Yet it is important that this represents only one dimension of development, termed by Hallpike “vertical”. There is also the “horizontal” dimension of experience and judgment and emotional maturity—the shaping of intelligence over time. A “lower” order of vertical development may find a high degree of horizontal complexity. Therefore a “primitive” group could be locked into, for example, the pre-operatory stage, yet within its intellectual parameters create a highly elaborated and rich cultural tradition. I am not suggesting the renaissance of the nineteenth century ethnocentrically conceived “primitive”, there is no question as to an equality of complexity, but rather the dimensional emphasis promoted by one lifeway in comparison to another.
These are important considerations for the study of societies such as the Pathan, where extreme social  isolation has led to the reification and intensification of what was a highly complex institution of collective survival strategies into a tragic parody of such mechanisms—a parody that could destroy the society. It is important to understand, that while cultural orientation may affect vertical development of the society as a whole, i.e., its ability as group to deal with environmental challenge and/or change, the individual member is not locked in. Piaget was not talking about genetic phenomena, but rather developmental phenomena, and as such capable of dynamic response to any life way change.
Noam Chomsky, on the other hand, is addressing such genetic possibilities. He postulated that humans possess what he termed a “Language Acquisition Device”. This device, part of a genetic cognitive inheritance and part of an evolved species survival strategy, was an instinctive trait without which there could be no humankind. Languages, as diverse as they might seem, are but relatively minor variations of a universal template to which we are genetically bound.
Of great value to “across-the-board” cognitive study is Chomsky’s distinction between performance and competence. This recognition of the difference between behavior, as highly culture-patterned, and capacity, which if Chomsky is to be believed is genetically endowed (equally across the species), explains why individuals can rapidly jump cognitive levels in response to an outside stimulus. In his use of competence he suggests that we all possess the latent abilities but whether these are permitted to surface in performance is, to a great extent, determined by the collective representational force of culture.
Universals may be generated by basic interactions between environment and perception/cognition. Herbert and Eve Clark state:
The first universals to be taken up are those that probably derive from the human capacity to organize and categorize perceptual information (Classification). For example, because the human visual apparatus finds certain colors more salient than others, languages are extraordinarily consistent about which few of the infinite colors are named. Other aspects of the human perceptual and cognitive systems lead to universal ways of treating names for such things as natural categories, names for shapes and spatial terms. (Clark & Clark, 1977-523).
Much of this statement is drawn from the work of
World view cannot be approached in such an isolated, static manner. It is not a vestige but, rather, what we make of our perception of physical reality, how we take such perceptions and recombine them into our own projection of reality, a “reality” upon which we base our behavior and actions. The more that a world view is shared, the more reinforcement it receives and the more apparent “reality” it accrues. Yet such “reality” is not to be confused with the physical reality that exists outside the human perceptual/cognitive processing (accompanied by the inevitable distortions).
It is essential to understand that this is not merely a one-way process with external reality being entered into processing that produces a final world view. Rather, there is a continuing feedback and interaction between physical reality, human perception and cognitive processing and projection of this reality (conceptual reality). World view is in itself a force capable of modifying physical reality. It does so through the agency of human behavior, actions which are carried out on the basis of world view.
Since there are numerous variables contributing to diverse cognitive patterning (e.g., physical environment, social structures, culture contacts and other historical forces), it is quite easy to see how variation in world view takes place. While this variation certainly occurs at an individual level there are significant, contributory factors shared by cultural units, which in turn produce, at a certain level, a shared world view by such units.
From consideration of the nature of cognition, as it pertains to this study, I will turn to examine what I believe to be the major contributor to its patterning, the programming force of culture.
The definition of culture has been almost as often restated as cultural anthropologists have put forth theses. It is clear that a universally acceptable definition of what forms the focus of the discipline has yet to be achieved and outside of anthropology there is strong question as to its existence. Historically there is a wide range of viewpoints from Edward Tylor’s seminal definition:
“Culture or Civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” (Tylor, 1877: 1)
Through the questioning of Radcliffe-Brown as to the validity of culture as a “scientific” concept, to the ethnoscientific definition of Ward Goodenough:
“… it (culture) does not consist of things, people, behavior or emotions. It is rather an organization of these things. It is the forms of things that people have in mind, their models for perceiving, relating, and otherwise interpreting them.” (Goodenough, 1957: 36)
Charles Frake echoes this thought in his succinct definition: “how people organize their experience conceptually so that it can be transmitted as knowledge from person to person.” (Frake, 1963). It is this transmission that forms a culture-specific overlay to the initial cognitive template with which we are born.
What is the motivator for such a process? In a word, it is survival.. It is the very nature of our complex mental processes that requires us to seek more than just those things for species survival or, at least, those things which we view as cross-species survival motivators, e.g., food and reproduction. We must also achieve a psychic equilibrium. In making a case for the “psychic unity” of humankind, Franz Boas stated:
“In many cases the difference between civilized man and primitive man are more apparent than real; that the social conditions; on account of their particular characteristics, easily convey the impression that the mind of primitive man acts in a way quite different from ours while in reality the fundamental traits of mind are the same.” (Boas, 1911: 114)
Aside from the dated “primitive” and “civilized”,
the assessment of Boas remains valid. From this universal base, humankind
reaches out within the constraints of environmental milieu to try to understand
their world by developing explanatory theories. (Robin Horton 1967). If this is
acceptable then it becomes quite easy to postulate that the basis of cultural
diversity is that of environmental diversity. Michael Cole elaborates this in
his study of the Kpelle in
Examinations of other religious traditions will reveal similar themes of human interest in the ordering of the “chaos of nature” i.e., Judeo-Christian-Islamic polarity of Good vs. Evil, Hindu-Buddhist-Tao complementary Yin and Yang, Hellenistic anthropomorphism of God-figure. Levi-Strauss carries this thought further by asserting that there are no higher or lower stages of cognitive development (and this is where he found grievous fault in his misreading  of Piaget) but only different strategies to deal with environmental problems. It has been pointed out that there are instances where cultures share identical econiches, e.g., the Hopi and Navajo, the former living within the physical boundaries of the latter but developed along highly dissimilar cultural lines. I believe that this is a contradiction only if environment is to be viewed as purely physical phenomena.
While my knowledge, in respect to the Hopi/Navajo,
is limited, I know from my own field research with the Pathans
that many facets of culture survive and, perhaps, are even created out of the
need for self-identity in the presence of a strong assimilationist
challenge from an alien dominant culture. Brothers, one maintaining Pathan traditions (usually the eldest who can make some
sort of living on the land), the other (the younger, who must find a living elsewhere)
adopting the more cosmopolitan, Pakistani ways, build their lives, both with a
full knowledge of the other. They exchange visits, the more traditional
adopting the “city ways” when visiting in
The patterning of traditional Pathan life is too deeply engraved for revolutionary change, either from within or without. Its members can shed, in part, the lifestyle when they remove to alien environments ruled by other traditions, yet, as we shall see, the Pukhto or Pukhtunwali, the way of the Pathan, always remains, following them throughout their lives. It is an intrinsic part of their world view, which as Kenneth Boulding states:
“…is not merely a philosophical by-product of each culture, like a shadow, but the very skeleton of concrete cognitive assumptions on which the flesh of customary behavior is hung.” (Boulding, 1956: 143)
Piaget has given us a framework of cognitive process, positing a useful approach to conceptualizing how we go about world view building. For further clarification of the nature of such world view, I have turned to the work of Michael Kearney (1984), a cultural anthropologist with strong Marxist leanings. He opens with the establishment of oppositional frameworks of cultural idealism and historical materialism. Rather than taking either side he explains them as in themselves being world views of class interest groups, and characterizes his own stance as:
… a rationalism modified with a strong dose of what might be called dialectical constructionism or interactionism which proceeds, as in the psychology and epistemology of Marx and Piaget, by the interaction between the subject (Self) and the object (Other). (Kearney, 1984: 3)
A major problem he finds with the idealist approach, e.g., Redfield, is that while it serves as a descriptive format, it does not explain “why a certain type of society may have one world view, nor how world views change. Nor did he attempt to explain what connection there is between world view, environment and behavior.” (ibid. 40). It is just these questions, which must be addressed if I am to proceed in my own investigation.
World view is what we make of our perception of physical reality, how we take such perceptions and recombine them into our own projection of reality, a “reality” upon which we base our behavior and actions. The more that a world view is shared, the more reinforcement it receives and the more apparent “reality” it accrues. Yet such “reality” is not to be confused with the physical reality that exists outside the human perceptual/cognitive processing (accompanied by the inevitable distortions).
It is essential to understand that this is not merely a one-way process, the external reality being entered into processing, and, thereby, producing a resulting final world view. Rather, there is a continuing feedback and interaction between physical reality, human perception and cognitive processing and projection of this reality (conceptual reality). World view is in itself a force capable of modifying physical reality. It does so through the agent of human action, actions which are carried out on the basis of world view.
Since there are numerous variables contributing to diverse cognitive patterning (e.g., physical environment, social structures, culture contacts and other historical forces), it is quite easy to see how variation in world view takes place. While this variation certainly occurs at an individual level, there are significant, contributory factors shared by cultural units, which in turn produce, at a certain level, a shared world view by such units.
To be able to make some sort of comparative analysis
of such a highly complex process, it is necessary to identify first the
universal element of all world view.
To carry out such a complete comparative analysis would require a much larger venue than is possible in this paper. I will, therefore in the analysis below, focus on a single category within a single cultural milieu, the elements of identity, those emic features that identify the Pathan thought world or world view.
The Digitalization of Analogous Nature
A major approach to the culture-concept (the patterning of cognition by culture), championed by Levi-Strauss, is the structural school. This approach, along with the allied cybernetic and systems theory, focuses on an underlying primary system in the expression of culture—as do the concepts of Chomsky in the more narrow field of linguistics. It is, as Levi-Strauss points out (in Wilden, 1980: 237), a state of unconsciousness, which he equates with “the ‘symbolic function’, a universal set of laws which organizes the personal lexicon available to the individual and thus makes of [this lexicon] a Discourse”.
Levi-Strauss proposes that humans pass from a state of nature to one of culture with two conditions: (1) the introduction of “the law of distinction and difference: the prohibition of incest”, and (2) “the correlative introduction of discrete, discontinuous, combinatory component into the non-discrete continuum of nature. In this manner he begins to approach the concept of world view building as a function of culture, for the two conditions he sets are somewhat similar to the function of classification, relationship and causality in the process of the formation of a shared conceptual reality.
The principal failing of Levi-Strauss’ approach is that it attempts to describe what is in effect a dynamic process, culture, (an open system) in static, mechanistic terms (appropriate only to a closed system). Perhaps the revealed impermanence of social and cultural institutions of this day and age make clear what was not so clear to an earlier generation.
While Levi-Strauss places great emphasis on the role of the incest taboo in the creation of a state of culture out of the “chaos” of nature, Wilden makes a more interesting proposal: “I think we can make this an even more general principle, and say that the distinction depends on the socio-economic organization of digital communication and exchange.” (Ibid.: 245). Wilden succeeds in placing the correct isomorphic relationship necessary to describe the dynamic properties of both nature and the ordering process that is, in effect, culture.
To conclude my argument, humankind is universally endowed at birth with a similar capacity for cognition and cognitive development, just as its perceptive capabilities are equal (although to some relatively small degree differentiated by specialized adaptations). These abilities are then shaped, to a greater or lesser degree, by collectivized traditions of human response to the need to order specific sets of environments (in the full sense of this term). In order to be able to attend to the elements of the continuum of nature that are essential for survival, the flood of disordered phenomena must be structured into some sort of order. Just as the neurons order incoming stimuli, culture orders external phenomena for the collective representation of a society. It is not the resultant edifice of traditions that is of the greatest importance, but rather the dynamic function of such an edifice.
Therefore, those factors, which differentiate us as cultural entities, are isomorphic, collective representations of the individual perceptual/cognitive processes which structures conceptual reality—world view. One way to tap this isolate “reality” is to examine the codes, verbal and nonverbal through which it is transmitted. It is as Jakobson posits that the true importance of a code: “is not so much as a mechanism which allows communication as a mechanism which allows transformation between two systems.” (in Eco, 1984: 168)
In the following sections I will explore a methodological design based on semantic analysis. This will examine the paradigm of emotional opposition within Pathan culture—the patterning force of the Pathan dimension of identity—particularly focusing on the idealized, social construction of love (the sacred) contrasted to the reality of this emotion (the profane). In this attempt, I will try to connect how these meanings reflect on the institutions of socialization—how they have functioned historically, how they are now affecting contemporary events and what they may suggest as indicators of the future for these people.
The data for this analysis is drawn from my own
field experience in Pathan areas on both sides of the
Afghan-Pakistani border during the years 1968 - 1975. In addition, it includes
what I believe to be an extensive review of the available ethnographic
literature, and interviews with four adult male Pathans
living in the
From these sources, I have compiled a list of terms
that refer to emotions. I have elicited from these informants what role the
emotions play in their own personal lives and of those Pathans
whom they know or have known. Complicating the process is the fact that there
are two main dialects, Pushtu, spoken by the
Southwestern tribes, those that radiate from
It is not my intention, within the scope of this paper, to chart the “endless task” of an updated ethnographic description (Wallace, 1970: 4), but to examine the dialectical relationship between the social patterning of verbal meaning and its effect on individual behavior and belief. In other words, how institutions structure the individual maze ways  (which I interpret to be similar to individual world view).
As mentioned above I will consider those aspects of emotion which in their uniformity contribute to social homogeneity, those sacred aspects which support the group “ideal”; and those that deviate from the normative model, reflecting the degree of dissonance, which as in the genetic mutation of the biological order, may effect a social or behavioral mutation leading to group or cultural change.
The Pathans are a racially
mixed people of approximately ten million inhabiting a broad belt on either
side of the Afghan-Pakistani border. According to their own extensive
genealogies they were founded by the thirty-seventh lineal descendant of Saul
of Israel (Spain 1963: 40) and thus consider themselves descended from one of
the lost tribes of
Lineages are homologous corporate groups based on genealogical maps of unilineal descent that define rights and duties, friends and enemies, kin and non-kin. (Ahmed 1980: 127)
It is from a person’s position within the group as defined by his/her lineage that gives meaning to such institutions as Pukhtunwali (way of the Pathan), the code of honor that regulates all of Pathan life. It is only through the group association that such codes may be enforced—at the ulus (tribe), khel (clan) or kahols (extended family) level. All of the informants concurred with the idea that a Pathan identifies him/herself with lineage (patrilineal) rather than from a geographic location, e.g., as the eldest son of Abul Nisar Khan of the Nakrudin Khel, of the Yusufzai.
To be a Pathan means to be patrilineally descended from Pathan lineage. This is a male dominated society in extremis: where an often-repeated saying is “women have no noses. They will eat shit.” (Lindholm 1982: 113). Paradoxically zan (women) form, along with zamin (land), the most sacred possessions of a man, and in the ideal a true Pathan would rather loose his life than give up either (Khan, 1958: 45). Outwardly there is an expressed contempt for women, perhaps because they represent possession and weakness. The quickest way to invite catastrophe is to even look at another’s wife. Women represent a great vulnerability to the nang (honor) of a family and any tor (act of immorality, literally black), no matter how slight, demands satisfaction in blood—usually both male and female parties.
It is for these reasons that women, for the most part, are cloistered in purdah. It is hoped that the seclusion, which this institution affords, will keep the women from harms way. The thinking is that without such protection women would have little defense against any would-be seducer. It is also important to keep in mind that most women are promised in marriage from birth, and that this promise or engagement is viewed as the same thing as marriage. Thus the “western” phenomenon of romantic courtship does not exist except as a highly dangerous deviancy where it does occur, it is this very aspect of danger that makes it so appealing.
Goodenough (1956: 197) defines a paradigm as “any set of linguistic forms whatever their shape which signify complimentary sesames” (those abstracted contextual elements with which it is in perfect association, without which it cannot properly occur). He offers two approaches to construction of a paradigm: (1) The use of a cover term (2) complementation on the n dimension (Spradley, 1972: 264).
Traditional componential analysis, e.g., Goodenough (1956) and Lounsbury
(1964) seeks to account for only the denotative meaning, offering little
consideration for the connotative or metaphoric dimensions (Kronenfeld
& Armstrong, 1985: 91). Following the lead of
Due to my extremely limited access to informants, the multiplicity of homonyms posed by dialect and regional culture difference, and since I am attempting to derive a sense of world view not from a single concept, e.g., beer terms but rather from the relationships and emotions as structured by Pathan society, I have chosen to focus on the term minae. From this term I have drawn up a framework of related concepts, concepts that I believe, through elicitation of informants and the previous research of ethnographers, to be the “pillars” upon which Pathan identity is built. Perhaps most accurately the “cover term” is Pathan (or more accurately Afghan since this study is in part an emic view).
The paradigm below (Figure 1.) considers the construction of a belief system from the social ordering of minae (love). The tiers are composed of sub-paradigms composed on the three attributes seen to form Pathan identity (Caroe 1965, Barth 1959, Barth 1981).
The first tier offers the polarities of minae (love) and marawar (hate) and those of ixlas (devotion [sacred]) and saddhr (lust [profane]). These basic values find their origin outside the isolate culture, in the universal doctrine of Islam (Sunni), a belief system that is an essential feature of Pathan identity. The second tier expresses the internal effect of the Khel (patrilineal lineage) in shaping this belief system. The bottom tier formulates this expression into the principal Pathan institution of Pakhto or Pukhtunwali that “forms the core of Pukhtun social behavior” (Ahmed, 1980: 89).
Above all, the cultured Pathan in his moments of repose thinks of himself as a poet, or at least capable of appreciating good poetry. In assaying the historical development of minae, it is therefore most appropriate to investigate this avenue as a reflection of collective meaning.
The essential meaning of minae, as spin or sacred emotion in Pathan life, can be traced to its interpretation by Sufi mystics, a summation of which can be found in the verse of Jalaluddin Rumi, a Persian poet and founder of one of the oldest Sufi orders. In his Masnavi he writes of love:
The noise of clapping of hands is never heard
From one of thy hands unaided by the other hand
The man athirst cries, “Where is the delicious water?”
Water too cries, “Where is the water drinker?”
This thirst in my soul is the attraction of the water;
I am the water’s and the water is mine.
God’s wisdom in His eternal foreknowledge and decree
Made us to be lovers one of the other.
Nay more, all the parts of the world by this decree
Are arranged in pairs, and each loves its mate.
(Whinfield [trans], 1975: 161)
Rumi is, of course, speaking of the spiritual union between man and God and in doing so he freely employs the metaphor of romantic love between man and woman. This is echoed within the limited literature of the Pathans themselves in the verse of their premier poet, Khushal Khan Khattak, the 17TH Century warrior poet:
Of love, as Mansur did,
Then and only then you’ll conform
To the one law of God.
The solemn sessions of the wise
Will mean nothing to you
Once you have joined the company
Of those who’re mad for love.
What this world counts as sweet will seem
Like bitterness to you
When once you know the real delight
Of a friend’s true love.
(MacKenzie [trans.] 1965: 195)
Much of his work is marked by an absence of sexual or physical reference. His metaphor is dominated by ethereal forces of overpowering magnitude: e.g., the moth to flame; seed planted in the heart to burst into bloom; captive in chains; love that is not directed by human wish but rather is the controlling force, the kismet (fate) preordained by God through human nature.
Yet, also paralleling this sacred aspect, is another expression, that not of idealized, ascetic poet but of the virile, warrior bard—a physical expression of saddhr, the expression of deeper biological yearnings which are universal to all humankind, no matter the degree of social “programming”.
In this side of Khushal’s verse we see anger towards women for arousing “base”, lust-laden passion, for capturing the heart and thereby securing sabera (domination):
Should ever fall in love!
For love is like a ravening horde
Invading one’s whole frame.
But yesterday my foolish heart
Went about all smiles;
Come now and see how once again
Today it goes in tears. (ibid: 171)
In addition is covert reference to a more “unnatural” form of love that is common to many warrior societies:
When I taste with my own lips
The apple of his cheeks (ibid: 143)
While there are many examples to veiled reference to homosexual love, the important division that occurs in Khushal’s poetry is not hetero/homosexual but love motivated from the ixlas (devotion) and that motivated by saddhr (lust).
Tradition-bound Pathan society remains firmly (at least in its external expression) locked within the same conceptual framework of minae, as was Khushal three hundred years ago. From interviews with the informants and personal experience, I am led to conclude that the Pathan concept of love, i.e., as an expressed emotion is dominated (and here I am referring to how it exists in it native environment) by the need to maintain social equilibrium. All Pathan ego is tied to nang, that sense of personal honor that extends to family, clan, and tribe. To loose nang is to cease to be. Only in a state of nang can one operate within the system of Pukhto or Pukhtunwali (code of honor). In a society with out strong centralized system of enforcement men must live by their jaba (their word).
If they loose nang their jaba looses credence, making it almost impossible to function within the system. Only by expiation, the process of spin, which is strictly codified, can the stain of peghor (dishonor), be removed. Therefore the Pathans go to great lengths to protect themselves from inviting peghor. So firm is the grip of Pukhto on the Pathan that:
It is the Pukhtun (Pathan) who is ‘maddened’ by nang and the Pukhtun who gives his life to uphold nang. Pukhtuns themselves are acutely conscious of this madness and quote the saying “Pukhto is half-madness” (Pukhto nim liwantob day). (Ahmed, 1980: 98)
Zan (women), the normative object of male love emotion in most societies are seen a major threat to nang. Viewed as chattels of males, they form an avenue by which an outsider may stain a man’s and consequently a family’s honor. It is for this reason that the institution of purdah (seclusion) came into being. Such institution exacerbates isolation of women, reifying the male view of their essential non-humanness. This in turn shapes the whole concept of the emotion of love, which must find outlet elsewhere.
The extremes to which a man’s nang can be guarded against the peghor of an act of tor are portrayed in a famous Pathan folk song, based on what is reputedly a true incident in the first decade of this century. A wife was wrongfully accused by her husband (goaded by neighbor’s hints) of flirting with a guest while in the act of melamastia—she had passed tobacco through a curtained door. Despite the wife’s protestations that the guest had not even seen her face the husband persisted. Seeing there was no hope she reiterated her innocence but proclaimed that she was ready to die for their nang. The song ends: Khuday dey khwar kra Sher Alama de tambaco per panra cha Kari margoona (‘God ruin you Sher Alama [the husband] who murdered because of tobacco leaves’). Despite this remonstration the point of the song is generally viewed by Pathans as symbolic of the ideal woman—total chastity and total loyalty.
This concept is the opposite of tor and is expressed in the term mor (mother) which signifies the ideal of Pathan womanhood: Tor can be expiated only through death, where mor the way to life. However, despite the idealization of the mor model, the reality for the woman is not quite so exalted. A common saying goes “for the woman either the house or the grave”
Survival is too tenuous to live outside the society. Zan have become the principal trade commodity through which family alliances are built. This exchange adal-badal (give and take) assumes many forms and is an important exercise of competition amongst Pathans—the most important being the exchange of a woman for an alliance advantage. Despite the necessity and universality of such an act it remains a shameful deed, “seen as exposing a family’s sense of shame and modesty” (Caroe 1965: 304).
While occasionally Pathan males marry outside the lineage (even so far as to include non-Pathan women) Pathan women usually do not. From my own experience, I know of only one exception—forming a classic example of how this lineage concept can be used to lie.
The son of an Army officer stationed in
Therefore a compromise was reached. The non-Pathan collected a large contingent of supporters (over one hundred) suitably armed and stormed the girl’s home in a fleet of taxis, abducting her at gunpoint. The marriage was then performed and consummated in the Madrasi home. Thus faced by fait accompli the girl’s family could accept the marriage without loss of nang—the Madrasi being outside the khel system merited no act of badal.
So important is the commodity value of women to the maintenance of Pathan life that zar are removed from the “game” of romance. The exception to this is the duma, (prostitute) which dances at weddings, and performs sexual favors for money. Unlike wives whose strictly enforced purdah (seclusion) is often a divisive factor for brothers:
The duma is sexually free and shameless…it is the wife who is always blamed for the break up of the patrilineal joint family; a break, which is in fact largely caused by enmity and personal ambition of the brothers. But the duma out of purdah and sexually promiscuous, unites the brothers in the reversal of marriage. They buy her attentions for one another and thereby overcome, if only temporarily, their own opposition. (Lindholm, 1982: 120)
In recent years the replacement of duma with lalees (bedagh [passive homosexual] dancing boys) reinforced the exchange or commodity role of the woman in Pathan society, removing any overt sexuality from the entire sex itself. This increase of homosexuality, while not openly approved by society, (it is condemned by the Koran) is tacitly accepted as a safety valve for the outlet of saddhr. It can be safely practiced without the social consequence of tor, and the obligation of atonement, which in the Pathan fashion normally entails a high cost in human life. The homosexual act, both by male or female, is viewed as a private affair, which while not normative, does not disrupt the social order.
Thus while male/female love become tenuous in the Pathan milieu, Pathans, as all humans, possess a physical need to express this emotion. The same social pressures, discussed above, which conspire to keep men and women apart, work to draw those of the same sex into close relationships of friendship or andivalae
Because the close relations of kinship are fraught with danger—keeping in mind that the term tarbroor is applied both to patrilineal cousin and enemy—friendships are sought outside this immediate sphere of potential conflict. During my own time in Pathan lands individuals seeking a relationship continually approached me. This was not due to some outstanding personality characteristic on my part, but because I was beyond “the pale” and as such possessed a great potential for the friendship “ideal”.
Women do not qualify as friends, not only for the inherent danger of such a relationship, since they are: “contaminated by their contradictory role in exchange and the consequent repulsiveness” (Lindholm, 1982: 243). Normally a male of the same age group, preferably from another village or at least economic class is chosen. The ideal relationship is dyadic and can be extremely physical. It is most common to see boys and men handholding as they stroll through the bazaars. Although such overt touching would suggest homosexuality in Northern European societies, there is little evidence that it plays any greater role in Pathan life, except for the fact that for the unmarried man, the only sexual outlet is a homosexual one. A haunting reminder of this is the Pathan proverb about love “a woman for duty and a boy for pleasure (and a goat for ecstasy)”. Though this often repeated remark might seem to be of legendary origins, I can attest that it circulates among the Pathan, particularly among the young men, who through travel, have come to know other systems. To comment on what they view as the sorry state of Pathan sex life—two of the four informants volunteered this “proverb”.
Such acts, however, are seen as a corruption of the ideal, for if love is to remain pure, it must never be physically fulfilled—it must remain the “searing flame” with which the zre (heart) or axlem (catches fire). This is exemplified in a Pathan landay :
Call it romance, call it love, you did it.
I am tired now; pull up the blanket I want to sleep.
(Dupree, 1978: 91)
In true friendship there should be no physical consummation, no attainment of satisfaction or contentment, for once again as a form of love, it is a metaphor for ones relationship to Allah or God—a relationship that may be only consummated in physical death. Yet in the platonic sense, friends should become of one spirit, one body. One can only have a single true friend, and all ixlas (devotion) should be channeled to this individual:
How can a man pay the price of friendship?
With a thousand friends spending his love?
The true friend loves only one
And ignores the rest (Rahman Baba)
Andivalae is a major gauge of ones conduct of nang. The performance of the true friendship ideal supersedes all other codes including that of the Koran (Lindholm, 1982: 240). One can honorably lie, cheat or steal in defense of the friend.
Melamastia is the institutionalized expression of andivalae—and thus the social construct of minae. It forms one of the three pillars upon which Pukhto rests (the others being badal [revenge] and anabatic [sanctuary]). It is the ritual enactment which all Pathans of hospitality to those requesting it. It signifies the givers understanding that all men are creatures of God and in honoring them one honors God. The giving of melamastia is a major method to increase nang, and, conversely, in failing to fulfill its obligations a way to loose nang.
Many badal find their origin in a wrongdoing against an adversary’s guest. Even if a guest is a co-conspirator the perpetration of an affront, his (or even conceivably her) status as a guest places him outside the enmity relationship. Any affront to an opponents guest requires immediate badal on the part of the host if nang is to be preserved. This even extends beyond the host territory in instances where bedragga (safe passage) is granted.
In many ways melamastia, resembles the potlatch of the Amerindian tribes of the Northwest. Wealthy men will stop at nothing, even incurring the wrath of their wives, as they squander away family wealth to accrue higher levels of honor. I have found when traveling through Pathan areas that one must time visits very carefully, for host will completely impoverish their families in order to fulfill the demands of melamastia—particularly for a foreign guest with governmental connections. While as a foreigner, I was not faced with the burden of reciprocation for a fellow Pathan the onus is all too real. There are many instances where melmastia has been subverted to act as an instrument of destruction rather than goodwill. For in the obligation for reciprocation, the guest turned host must repay several folds if his nang is to remain unsullied.
Pathans will not, however, entertain a guest indefinitely. At a certain point, according to the guest status and circumstance, he will shift from the role of guest to that of hamsaya (client) who will be expected in some fashion to earn his keep.
An offshoot of melamastia is nanawati. According to Caroe (1958: 351) it is a verbal noun meaning “to come in” and cannot be refused even to an enemy. In this way it can be viewed as a form of surrender or taqdimawem (submission). Nanwati has always been a major cause of strife between the Pathans and whatever central power was ruling in the adjacent regions. Criminals and political offenders from these regions will often flee to the Pathan areas and petition for the protection of nanawati from their Pathan host. Regardless of the petitioner’s relationship to Pathan society nanawati must be granted if the petitioned is not to fall into peghor.
I personally experience the power of nanwati, when, following the coup in July 1973,
my film crew and I were forced to flee across the border from
The limited scope of this paper allows only for briefest glimpse of the Pathan world view. It is, however, my hope that it expresses the manner in which the principal concept, i.e., Pukhto, shapes the principal emotion of minae and shaping its effect in individual maze ways and through their collective representation, the culture as a whole. The terms for such emotions encode their significance, thereby permitting their culture-patterned concept to be passed from generation to generation. If we as outsiders wish to enter the Pathan thought world, we may gain an initial entrance through this “semantic door”. By focusing on such terms as I have considered, and probing the depths of their emic meaning, we can gradually comprehend, to some extent, the mind of the Pathan and understand how this mind perceives and orders universal physical phenomenon within the context of the Pathan experience—the body of knowledge that is in effect their culture.
To those outside their culture, the Pathan life way may seem very strange, even barbaric. If this seems to be the case, that within the context of our own thought world these people seem barbarous or incomprehensible, we should pause to consider that this represents a system of knowledge that has survived for well over a millennium. These are a group of humans who have built a life way that has withstood the rigors of both nature and opposing civilizations, and who have, against all odds, maintained a measure of both personal freedom and cultural identity.
True, as I have pointed out, they are enslaved to
their own thought world, their Pukhto, yet no
more so than are any other group of people who claim to share a common culture.
Pathan life is under the most concentrated assault
ever experienced, not only from the
barmakiri —“drilling” (slang for sexual intercourse)
ban — co-wife
begherata— without honor
duma—prostitute, (also term for barber’s wife)
jaba—word of honor
jirga—council of elders
khegara— doing good for others
kozda kawem —to get engaged
lalee — rosy cheeked (lit.), dancing boy
las-niway —hand holding
mast —intoxicated (with love)
melmana —female guest
mrasta —aid, help
nanawatai— right of asylum
or axlem—to catch fire
pezenem —to be acquainted
Pukhtunwali —way of the Pukhtun
purdah— seclusion of women
sah niwelay —breathless
sarbera —on top
tarboorwali —relationship of enmity
tarel —the tying
taswiquawem —to encourage
tora —the sword (lit.), bravery
wafa—fidelity to one’s word or cause
wasta— marriage broker
wulwar — bride-price
xuy —habit, custom
zar — women
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 For the purposes of simplicity in this paper I will use the Urdu/Hindi word Pathan as the collective term for both the Pushtu (Southwestern) and Pukhtu (Northeastern) people. It should be understood that this is a foreign designation, the people term themselves Afghan.
 I am reluctant to devote too much space to a discussion of culture. Suffice it to say, I believe that they arise as a shared strategy to survival within a particular environmental circumstance agreeing with Keesing (1974) that in essence it is a system of knowledge -- the knowledge of survival.
 I am considering investigating mujahidin (resistance) systems of communication as a possible topic for my thesis.
 In this I include not only the physical, but social, historical and economic as well.
 While Sapir and Whorf are often linked as expressing essentially the same philosophy it is instructive to note as Bruner (1965: 51) points out that beyond the strict relativist position of Whorf-Sapir: "the possibility of the growth of speech being in a high degree dependent on the development of thought." He thereby emphasized the relational character of thought/speech a significant conceptual step forward over the strict linguistic determinism of Whorf.
 Piaget used the term "period" to express the larger developmental divisions, and the term "stage" to describe the sub-divisions within the "periods". Briefly encapsulated these are:
1. sensori-motor: a period from birth to two years, predominantly an exploratory phase starting with reflexive actions and ending with rudimentary abilities to symbolize such actions.
2. operational thought:
A. pre-operatory: from end of infancy until five or six years of age when the child's focus is primarily egocentric and can deal with only an extremely limited amount of outside information (unidimensional).
B. concrete operatory: beginning at about the age of six and characterized by an increasing ability to perform more intricate mental operations, e.g., transformations and conservations, nevertheless they are still tied to the manipulation of the concrete as opposed to pure concept.
3. formal operational thought: The final growth phase which Piaget in his own experiments on Northern European children found to occur during adolescence when conceptual tools become mastered. They not only gain control of such operations as propositional and systematic logic but become decentralized, becoming increasingly aware of the wide spectrum of opinion and view point.
 If indeed this separation of what is essentially the same dimension can continue to be made.
 Hallpike uses the term "vertical" for development through a hierarchy of cognitive levels and horizontal for development within the parameter of one level.
 It should be understood that many Pathans are highly cosmopolitan in their experience, yet despite the diversity of this experience the have been extremely reluctant to modify their own social base. This is in part do to the highly unique environment of the Pathans and their underlying faith in their own traditions as the most appropriate survival mechanism -- a mechanism which, if history is to be believed has withstood the "test of time".
 I will later consider the dual nature of this lifeway -- that it forms such a great impediment to cultural change, i.e., adaptation, yet in turn allows this society to survive extreme external threats, e.g., the Mogul, British and Soviet attempts at subjugation.
 For deeper exploration of this
issue see the work of Flavell & Wohlwill (1969) and Bovet's
experiments with untrained peasant youth in
 As controversial as the thought may be, we must consider how cultural and environmental factors affect the basic biological mechanisms of perception. Nutrition is one such factor--cultural attitudes towards "drugs" is yet another.
 According to Hallpike (1979: 38) Levi-Strauss failed to understand the writings of Piaget because he based his assessment on the interpretation of Piaget's earliest work by Susan Issac(1930) and not on the writings of Piaget himself.
 It is noted that the Hopi and Navajo come from highly diverse cultural roots--the former being traditionally a settled agricultural people, the latter, a nomadic pastoral people.
 These interviews were conducted Dec. 1985 with the following informants:
Gulam -- male,
32 years, Pukhtu ,
2. Iqbal -- male, 23 , Pushtu, Qandahar Afgh. in U.S.A. 5 years
3. Mahboob -- male, 47, Pukhtun, Swat District, Pak. visiting on business.
4. Nur -- male 38, Pukhtun, Dir, Pak. in U.S.A. 6 years.
 I am employing the heuristic device of the "ideal" fully aware of its limitations, i.e., that it fails to reflect the essential dynamic of culture which is change. I feel however that if I realize, as Leach (1977: 285) points out: "the fictional nature of this equilibrium should be frankly recognized", then I may best accomplish the task at hand. This is to formulate a semantic analysis which will give insight into the collective world view of some ten million peoples.
 Wallace (1970: 15) defines mazeway as: "entire set of cognitive maps of positive and negative goals that an individual maintains at a given time.
 While there has be much debate over the true origins of the Pathan , a people who exhibit on a physical level a wide range of racial type, it is perhaps best to remember Kurt Lewin's belief in the importance of self image. That regardless of the truth or falsity of one's own persona construct, it is in effect a reflection of ideals, aspirations and self-understanding, all elements of a psychic reality the equal of any physical real. This is particularly true in the Pathan case where that entire social fabric rest upon the foundation of common ancestry.
 As is true in most societies this contempt ends at the threshold of the home where the female often becomes the dominant member of the family unit.
 In this complimentary schema the influence of the Hindu continuum of positive and negative energy is most evident.
 Mansur Hallaj: a pantheistic mystic who was crucified in
 This is literally the case for if a boy commits tor and then escapes outside the tribal areas (the domain of nang ) he is declared koshinda which is tantamount to a death sentence and requires him to be shot by immediate kin when and wherever he is found.
 According to Barth (1981: 41)
As in most of western Asia and India, Women are regarded as an appropriate form of tribute from a weak man who seeks protection, to the strong, who gives it . . . the giving of a woman downwards to inferiors -- is frowned upon and considered a 'shame' for the woman's family.
 A type of couplet sung by both men and women.