Alorese - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Alorese society is not organized into formal, hierarchical ranks. Although age, sex, occupation, and kinship contribute to determining one's standing on Alor, wealth is the primary means of achieving prestige. Men become wealthy and prestigious through cleverly negotiating a traditional credit system involving mokos (bronze drums), pigs, and gongs. These forms of wealth (particularly mokos) are required payments for marriages, funerals, and the erection of new lineage houses, and may be loaned out for interest. The more drums, gongs, and pigs a man can amass, the more prestigious he becomes.

Political Organization. Traditionally there was no indigenous system of political organization beyond the village level. Today the head of Alor Regency is called a bupati and is appointed by the Indonesian government. A council of local representatives (DPRD) assist the bupati in decision making. The regency is divided into five smaller administrative districts called kecamatan, each overseen by a camat. These five kecamatan consist of Northwest Alor, Southwest Alor, South Alor, East Alor, and Pantar. Each kecamatan consists of several villages ( desa ), each with a village head ( lurah ). The Indonesian government provides the usual range of services including schools, police, health posts, tax collection, road maintenance, etc.

Social Control. Ridicule and shame are the primary means of sanction on Alor. Personal disputes were traditionally settled by "fines through challenge," whereby an offended individual could purge his shame by publicly challenging his opponents to pay an inflated price for his pig or mokos. An opponent's refusal to comply would be a shameful admission of financial defeat. According to DuBois, occasionally Alorese opponents also engaged in potlatch-like "wealth feuds" to resolve their differences. Today, when disputes cannot be resolved at the local level, the state apparatus may be called upon (police, military force, etc.).

Conflict. Conflict occurs primarily over debts and exchange transactions. Large-scale warfare was extremely rare on Alor. Head-hunting raids to avenge the death of a kinsman (and to provide him with a "spouse") were suppressed in the early 1920s.

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