Gathered Storytelling: Death and Disease Among the Luo of the Nyakach Plateau
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Humans’ particular experiences of sickness and death depend largely upon their respective cultural and religious beliefs. They also depend greatly upon the social practices of their community, which define expectations for how members of society are to respond when people are sick, dying, and dead. This grounded theory ethnography drew data from sixteen home-based interviews and examined the experiences of sickness and death as recounted by members of the Luo tribe from a rural community on the Nyakach Plateau in western Kenya. The study identified and described Luo responses to sickness and death and demonstrated that members of this community tend to face sickness and death not as individuals, but as a community. The Luo communal response to suffering is rooted in the Luo practice of gathering to tell stories. The content of shared stories, which are often spiritual at the core, are important in providing a common basis from which tribespeople communally identify and respond to each other’s health needs. Furthermore, the physical act of coming together for storytelling prepares the community to likewise come together in material, spiritual, and emotional solidarity in order to confront sickness, death, and other hardships as a united body of people.