“No” was my mother’s constant refrain. Every time I questioned her refusal to grant whatever request I had made that entailed being out of her presence, she responded with her favorite aphorism: “No means I love you.”
As the music video begins, we see a young man waiting anxiously, peering through a gate. A young woman appears at the top of a set of outdoor stairs, opens a gate, and joins the young man as the first lyric, Aw vi pa o naw hta ha ja (elder brother [common reference for a boyfriend or spouse] I love you very much) appears on the screen.
©Bernard Perley Cite as: Perley, Bernard. 2019. “Love.” Anthropology News website, January 28, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1077
There is a moment in Spike Jonze’s film Her (2013) when the main character Theodore, who is in a romantic relationship with an operating system named Samantha, learns that she is simultaneously conversing with 8,316 others and has fallen in love with 641 of them.
There is a tendency to think about love as something private—an intimate matter between two people. But as a friend once told me, “You cannot understand Acholi love if you think that it is between two people.” If she is right, and I think she is, then our understanding of the phenomenon of love should consider the wider societal backdrop as well as the particular web of social relations in which lovers find themselves.
I have never been good at dating. I simply refused to acknowledge the subtleties and rituals of courtship, to dance the dance that potential lovers perform when declaring their affection for each other.
We were in the middle of one of Voice of the Experienced’s (VOTE) monthly membership meetings. Bruce, the deputy director, was making an announcement about an upcoming campaign when three students began stirring in the back of the atrium before abruptly—and not so quietly—moving toward the exit, muttering and clanging chairs as they went. Dolfinette, a new lead organizer, stood from her table and interrupted to ask them where they were going.