Applying Cultural Evolution
Traditional Luhya Mourning Rituals
Stephen Asatsa, Principal Investigator
Sheina Lew-Levy, Co-Investigator
Eric J Ringen, Statistical Consultant
Full title: Traditional mourning rituals among Luhya people of Kenya: A cultural evolutionary approach to understanding community wellbeing
Host institution: The Catholic University of Eastern Africa (Kenya)
Research location: Kenya
Around the world, people deal with grief in diverse ways, including the use of mourning rituals. For many African Indigenous communities, rituals were an integral part in grief processing and fostering a sense of community. However, globalization and colonization have contributed to the erosion of these rituals. This project aims to understand the challenges to maintaining Indigenous mourning rituals. Further, the project explores how mourning rituals enhance individual and community wellbeing. To achieve this, the project will work with participants from the Luhya community of western Kenya to answer the questions: (1) Do Indigenous mourning rituals help process grief? (2) Do mourning rituals promote cooperation? and (3) Does participation in mourning rituals contribute to learning?
These questions will be answered by interviewing affected people (community elders, religious leaders and bereaved members of the community) and by observing mourning rituals. The findings of the study will be shared with the scientific community and the public. Being cognizant of the fact that some religious faiths conflict with Indigenous rituals, the study will foster dialogue between religious leaders and community elders during workshops with the aim of facilitating common understanding of Indigenous mourning rituals. The research findings will be incorporated into training materials for mental health practitioners. Our project will illuminate whether mourning rituals benefit the Luhya community. It will also shed light on whether Indigenous knowledge can improve mental health care.
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