Lango - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The key to understanding Lango social organization is to recognize that it is both patrilineal and patrilocal (see "Kin Groups and Descent"). Men tend to reside near their fathers; hence, there are clusters of patrilineally related kinsmen in each neighborhood. Men often marry women who live 8 to 24 kilometers away from their own neighborhoods, and, consequently, women are introduced to their husbands' neighborhoods at marriage. Lango ideology is also "patricentric," in that people see a strong relationship between patrilineages and particular locales, and they regard males as being fixed in particular locales, in contrast to women, who change residences at marriage. Women often describe themselves as "strangers" in their husbands' neighborhoods. The Lango exemplify the classical problem that has been examined by anthropologists: that of the incorporation of women into the residential and kin groups of their husbands.

In addition to lineages, social organization in the neighborhood involves a corporative work group that cuts across kinship ties. All the members of a neighborhood are expected to assist one another in cultivating and harvesting, and a person who works alone jeopardizes his rights to land within the neighborhood. This neighborhood work group often meets informally for work followed by beer drinking, and it is probably the most important group to which a man belongs. In the past, there were age grades in Lango, but this seems to have died out sometime in the middle of the twentieth century. Another entity that is fast fading away is the traditional group comprised of the elders of five or six different patricians that were linked together for certain ritual purposes. In the past, these ritual linkages were also associated with military alliances, but the necessity for such alliances died out shortly after the imposition of colonial rule.

Political Organization. Traditionally, a local-level leader was called a jon jago, and a higher-level leader was called a rwot, but they were really ad hoc war leaders rather than chiefs. These leaders were important primarily during times of conflict, when they could organize armed groups, sometimes raiding rival groups to acquire cattle, territory, or wives. The jon jago served as a client to a rwot, who might exert influence over an area of 260 square kilometers. These leaders did not preside not over a state organization; Lango was a stateless society, and the relations between individuals and groups were largely determined by kinship groups. The imposition of colonial rule after 1910 led to the creation of a formal governmental apparatus in which local chiefs served under county chiefs, who in turn served under a district commissioner.

Social Control. Traditionally, social control was effected by kin groups as well as by local councils of elders from several different kin groups. Men could be banished from a community and stripped of their rights to use land. Accusations of sorcery were sometimes used against people, and various forms of physical punishment were imposed upon people who committed offenses; for example, a woman who committed adultery might have her nose cut off by her husband's kinsmen. Since the imposition of colonial rule, social control has mostly been relegated to the formal legal system. People regularly take one another to court for a wide range of offenses.

Conflict. The two principal sources of conflict are marriage and cattle, and the two come together in questions of bride-wealth. There is often a permanent state of conflict between affines over claims that the bride-wealth payment was insufficient. Death is another serious source of conflict, because the Lango believe that a death is always caused by someone. Disputes between lineages are no longer as serious as they were in the past, when long-lasting feuds were common and sometimes led to hostilities.


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Sylvia Nyana
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Apr 16, 2012 @ 10:22 pm
The "age group" is not Lango. I know one dissertation tried to paint Lango into age group debate. This has been repeated several times, and young people think it is true.

"Jang Jago" not "Jon Jago"

"Stateless society", the West coined that, it is not true. Lango government was different from the British system.

"for example, a woman who committed adultery might have her nose cut off by her husband's kinsmen". It is not true. Do you have citation for this brutal act? In Lango before colonialism and still practice , a man who commits adultery would pay cows to the husband of the woman.

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