Murut - Sociopolitical Organization



The Murut have no political unity above the village level. The Idahan once had three classes of slaves. A prisoner of war (the lowest class of slave) could become a member of the tribe as an ulipon. Marriage to another ulipon meant that the children would remain ulipon as well, and would also have to live with their owner. A slave's marriage to a free woman meant status as a debt-slave to his father-in-law, with whom he would have to live. Another salient feature of Murut social organization is the class distinction practiced by the Kelabits. There is a large distinction between "good" (Paran or aristocrats) and "bad" (low-class) people; this distinction is based on the amount of inherited wealth (jars, beads, gongs, etc.) a family has. The major difference between the two classes is that until recently the leading aristocrat had legal authority; in still earlier times, headhunting was a pursuit of the aristocrats as well. Presently, the Kelabit longhouse legal authority (Penghulu) is elected by popular vote.

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