Although respect has a pervasive significance in law, I select defamation to illustrate some of the major aspects of the legal expression of respect. The goals of permanent identity and influence, with correlations of unity and harmony, can only be approximated in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Permanent identity and influence is directly linked with the maintenance and the perpetuation of a good name. Respect for a man’s name is part of his immortality. Members of society owe each other the duty not to “spoil” another man’s name, and defamation is a serious matter. Because of the family orientation of Dinka society, anything that degrades a man threatens to reflect on his family and the gravity of the offense is largely determined by the descent and the generational factors involved, with the result that defamation is graver the higher the stratification of descent and age.1 In relation to women, its seriousness is greatest in situations of in-law relations. Among the warrior youth, personal imputations are hardly recognized as defamatory, but what is basically personal may still bring shame on a descent group, as when a man is accused of theft or indecent practices. Most insulting to the name of descent groups are those statements that directly touch on ancestors. In the past, defamatory utterances led to breach of the peace – especially

by the youth of the descent groups involved. Today, they are normally brought to court where civil or criminal measures, or both, may be taken against the wrongdoer, but the youth still resort to violence. Defamation is a matter that the Dinka do not ignore and, however trifling the matter, the court will take corrective measures. The name of the complainant does not have to be spoiled; as long as it could have been spoiled by what was said, an action will be taken. Thus, it is not essential that people believe the accusation or alter their attitude toward the defamed.2