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Vengeful Animals, Involuntary Mourning, and the Ethics of Ndyuka Autonomy

By Stuart Earle Strange

Cite As:
Strange, Stuart Earle. 2021. “Vengeful Animals, Involuntary Mourning, and the Ethics of Ndyuka Autonomy.” Cultural Anthropology 36, no. 1: 138–165.


This article reflects on mourning and interspecies responsibility. Considering what Ndyuka Maroons in the Caribbean country of Suriname—historic fugitives from plantation capitalism—call kunu (avenging ghosts) I explore how Ndyukas attempt to secure personal and collective autonomy in an expansively relational reality where mourning is the quintessence of relatedness. Because grief impinges on Ndyuka autonomy, daily life is understood as a flawed struggle to maintain freedom from mourning. This can only be done by paying appropriate respect to others so that they do not return as vengeful spirits dedicated to the destruction of those who have harmed them and their entire families in perpetuity. This essay examines the ethics of such deeply relational notions of autonomy and ponders its implications for understanding accountability for anthropogenic extinction.

On sa a sikiifi ya wani taki

A sikiifi ya taki fu a fasi di Ndyuka sama e tyai fuka anga sowtu faantiwowtu de fu den meti di e kon toon libisama kunu. A e taki tu fu sani di sa pasa te libisama kii wan libi libi sani di o toon kunu, anga fa libi sama mu dini kunu fu den sa libi makandii a wan fii fasi. Te wan sama dede, da ala sama fu a famii e tyai a fuka de makandii. Te wan kunu kon a wan famii, da a sa meke a famii fu a sama di be kii en tyai a fuka de soseefi tu. Libisama ná e wani fu tyai a fuka, ma a kunu sa meke den tyai en namo namo, bika a so wan fasi a o meke den fii a seefi tyali di en famii be fii, di den kii en. Fu di kunu a wani sani di de tuu tuu, da libisama mu libi a wan lesipeki fasi fu den no mu meke kunu gi den famii di o tan fika gi den baka pikin fu pikin, paansu fu paansu. A sikiifi ya e taki tu fu a fasi di Ndyuka sama denki fu libi anga den busi sani, anga fa den mu meke mofu a makandii fu libi anga den sani di sa toon kunu, fu a no mu poti den a fuka. A sikiifi ya taki en so, bika somen sama ná e lesipeki den sowtu a sowtu meti ya, ofuso den bon, anga soseefi den peesi pe den e tan fu libi moo. A toli ya e soi taki Ndyuka sama abi fuu koni di sa leli den bakaasama fu soi den fa den mu libi a wan lesipeki fasi di o meke den ná o poli a goontapu, ma den o tan libi bun bun anga taawan.


autonomy; multispecies ethics; grief; mourning; relatedness; responsibility; libi fii; libi makandii anga meti; tyali; adyumadye; faantiwowtu