This post is also available in: Japanese
Macdonald is a social anthropologist specializing in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. His acquaintance with the Palawan people in the Philippines dates from 1970 and repeated visits convinced him that for the people of Kulbi-Kenipaqan, who lead an outwardly peaceful existence in a remote corner of Palawan island, suicide was an endemic and enduring phenomenon repeating itself with unusual and stubborn frequency. Why would they fall victim to despair? To deal with this issue, Macdonald probes not only the beliefs, customs, and general disposition of this Palawan people, but also representations and concepts relating to suicide. He looks at the phenomenon (a stable and high rate of suicide) from the point of view of neurobiology and genetics as well as from a psychological, social, and historical perspective and considers that suicide is a learned behavior. As such suicide could be called “uncultural” since this type of behavior conflicts with explicitly stated social and cultural values. This study may mean that “culture” as anthropologists look at it – as a symbolic structure or as a set of rules and values – does not really explain all aspects of human behavior and says little about the real inner conflicts that decide individual fates.