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Gisaro Ceremony Among Kaluli Society

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Dressed as birds, the young men arrive at the longhouse of a neighboring clan for a highly anticipated event, the Gisaro ceremony. They perform elaborate dances and sing at length in the clan’s territory about dead members of their host’s community and days gone by. This can go on for hours, with the purpose of eliciting an intense emotional response of nostalgia, upset, loneliness, and sorrow from their hosts. Once this has been achieved, their hosts attack them with lighted torches, burning their shoulder in anger and sorrow. The dancers are not allowed to show any emotional reaction, but they continue to dance until the hosts are done attacking the dancers. When the ceremony draws to a close, the dancers retreat back to their hut for the night and bring their hosts food in the morning. While this elaborate and violent ceremony may seem bizarre to the outside world, it is extremely important and valuable in the context of Kaluli society. Far from being a rare or inexplicable incident, the Gisaro ceremony is a highly anticipated and appreciated ritual for the Kaluli people that can only be understood in the context of their beliefs about reciprocity, food, and the afterlife. The Gisaro ceremony is a prime example of the value of reciprocity to the Kaluli people. Reciprocity defines and shapes of all Kaluli social interactions, particularly the highly formalized ones in the Gisaro ceremony. In this ceremony, the Kaluli people view the reaction of the hosts as
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