Abelam - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Apart from households, lineages, and clans within the village, the nonlocalized moiety system provides the structure for male initiations as well as for yam festivals. Members of one moiety ( ara ) have their personal yam exchange partners, and each ara initiates the sons of their exchange partners. Thus, all ceremonial activity is balanced between ara. Although membership is primarily inherited from one's father, the equality of the two aras' Membership may be maintained by occasionally transferring members from one ara to the other.

Political Organization. Within the ara but also within assemblies held by hamlets or larger parts of the villages (as in disputes) the role of "big men" ( nemandu ) as the actual leaders becomes apparent. Apart from ritual knowledge (often transmitted to the first-born son), which is used as religious legitimation for political actions, oratorical skill is an important qualification for becoming a nemandu or an influential man.

Social Control. Nemandu are mostly conflict resolvere, settling disputes by stressing the importance of solidarity and cooperation. Disputes (which are quite frequent) are held on the ceremonial ground. They become settled under the guidance of influential men through the singing of conciliatory ritual songs, by the exchange of shell rings, or by fighting.

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