Indignant suicide in the Pacific: an example from the Toraja Highlands of Indonesia

Cult Med Psychiatry. 1990 Sep;14(3):365-79. doi: 10.1007/BF00117561.


This paper describes and analyzes a type of Toraja (South Sulawesi, Indonesia) suicide in which a person kills him or herself after having been slighted or offended, usually by a close family member. Comparing and contrasting such suicides to similar types found elsewhere in Austronesia-speaking Oceania, the paper argues that self-inflicted deaths of this nature are not so much 'anomic,' as suggested by some analysts, as 'indignant'; they are committed by persons who feel that they have been severely mistreated or abused according to traditional notions of reciprocity, mutual aid, and the dangers of frustrated desire. The paper concludes by suggesting that Durkheim may have underestimated the frequency and importance of 'indignant' suicide in 'traditional' societies and that, conversely, contemporary analysts may be underestimating the importance of traditional norms and values in accounting for the high rates of suicide found in many parts of the Pacific today.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anger*
  • Anomie
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Male
  • Morals
  • Shame*
  • Suicide / psychology*