The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty - 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel - Tiffany Watt Smith 2016


It’s the fire in the chili and the rush in the rapids. It makes tempers fly, and drives people to work harder. Among the Ilongot, a tribe of around 3,500 headhunters living amid the gloomy jungles of Nueva Vizcaya in the Philippines, liget is the name given to an angry energy that fuels not just human bodies but inanimate ones too.

The American anthropologist Michelle Rosaldo first brought liget to the attention of Western readers in the 1980s. More used to thinking about ANGER as a negative emotion, Rosaldo was struck by liget’s sense of optimism and vitality. Liget is certainly capable of stirring up pointless arguments and violent outbursts. But more usually it excites and motivates—makes people plant more seeds than their neighbors, or stay out hunting for longer. “If it were not for liget,” the Ilongot told Rosaldo, “we’d have no life, we’d never work.”

In 1981 Rosaldo died from an accidental fall during her fieldwork. Her husband, Renato, also an anthropologist living with the Ilongot, described his response to her death in terms of a further aspect of liget: the rage of grief. The liget that follows a bereavement is thought to spur the Ilongot on to a headhunting expedition. It’s when they hunt down an enemy tribesman, decapitate him and fling the severed head into the jungle, that the Ilongot believe they can achieve catharsis, and banish the pain of their loss. In this way, the liget that grips the Ilongot when their loved ones die is a furious desire to act and avenge, and so wrest back some control.