Anuta - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Anuta is a small-scale Polynesian chiefdom. Anutan society is hierarchically organized on the basis of age, sex, and proximity to a chiefly line. In addition, Anutans admire strength, intelligence, and skill at navigation, storytelling, carpentry, gardening, and other crafts. This provides a degree of social mobility in a system that otherwise seems rigidly stratified on the basis of genealogical criteria.

Political Organization. Anuta is divided into four ranked "clans" (kainanga). The two senior kainanga are led by chiefs (ariki); the remaining two are not. The senior chief is known as Te Ariki i Mua ("The Chief in Front") or Tui Anuta; the junior chief is Te Ariki i Muri ("The Chief in Back") or Tui Kainanga. The two ariki trace their ancestry to a pair of chiefly brothers who lived about nine generations ago. A chief is normally succeeded by his eldest son. In the 1890s, Anuta was incorporated into the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. In 1978 the Solomon Islands became an independent nation and claimed sovereignty over Anuta as well as neighboring islands. The national and provincial governments provide some shipping, medical care, and schooling. Anutans, however, continue to assert local autonomy by refusing to pay taxes, run for government office, or vote in elections.

Social Control. Under normal circumstances, social control is maintained by the high value placed on traditional custom and an appreciation of the importance of such custom. In addition, it is encouraged by a belief that disrespect or disobedience directed toward a person of superior rank is Certain to produce disease or other misfortune. In extreme cases, a chief has the authority to have an offender flogged or exiled to the ocean. At present, government or church authorities might also be called upon to intercede. This action is Unusual, however, because it compromises local sovereignty.

Conflict. Anutans relate several tales of visitors from other islands being killed or driven off. Internal conflicts have arisen over control of the chieftainship and access to garden land during times of famine. In recent years, external political and economic pressures have led to development of factions and ongoing conflict.

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