Atoni - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Formerly Atoni had noble, commoner, and slave classes, but society is increasingly egalitarian. Slavery was abolished by the Dutch and princedoms were eliminated by the Indonesian government in the 1970s, though former noble families may still have more access to resources than do commoners. Society is rooted in clan membership and affinal relationships between clans, and village leadership is often passed down in patrilines (as was true in the princedoms). There are no other formal groups in village society, though churches form the basis for social interaction in many villages.

Political Organization. Until the early 1970s, Atoni were subjects of many self-governing princedoms. After 1912 these were organized by the Netherlands-Indies government into three districts, headed by Dutch administrators. After 1950 these districts ( kabupaten ) were headed by Indonesians. In the 1970s the princedoms became subdistricts ( kecamatan ) of the Indonesian state bureaucracy, some headed by former princes, others not. Elected headmen now serve the government, though many are from leading local patrilines of the past. At the village level, informal dual headmen may be found, one to deal with government matters and another to handle customary issues. Recognized clan elders from the past princedoms may serve informal leadership roles within the subdistricts as well.

Social Control. Conflict may arise over inheritance, marriage, and other domestic disputes, theft of orchard products and animals, or personal offenses. Disputes are settled primarily at village level between agnates and affines of those concerned, or by customary village heads, with compensation being the primary means of settlement. In the past princes were ultimate courts of appeal, and now problems may be carried to local Indonesian subdistrict authorities. Moral or ritual missteps and infractions are believed to be punished by ancestors, by curses supported by transcendental justice, and, among Christians, by God.

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