Bau - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The social organization of the chiefdom was extraordinary complex, with all aspects of its existence ringed with ceremony. Each individual identified with a hierarchy of increasingly inclusive groups: extended family, subclan, clan (yavusa), federation of clans ( vanua), and political confederation ( matanitu). The focus of the chiefdom was the chiefly clan, which was supported and defended by two groups of hereditary fishers, who also had the role of defending the chiefs from attack by land or sea.

Political Organization. As head of the political confederation, the chiefly clan of Bau sought to maintain a network of tributary relationships through its subclans. This arrangement implied a degree of political instability, and, indeed, the history of the first half of the nineteenth century was one of a ceaseless struggle for power. Warrior subclans were spread as a shield along the north coast of the Rewa Delta and at the base of the Kaba Peninsula, separating Bau and Rewa. More distant ties were based on acknowledged ancestral kin relationships. As such, they required to be constantly reinforced within the Contemporary play of political forces. The colonial administrative system and that of the immediate postindependence period Divided the old chiefdom of Bau between several new administrative units, but in postcoup Fiji the chiefly confederations are again assuming political significance.

Social Control. Reflecting a preference for avoiding direct confrontation, gossip, ostracism, and social withdrawal have always been important forms of social control. Fear of divine retribution was and remains a powerful sanction at both the individual and the community level. The colonial government made Fijians subject to its judicial system, but since the 1987 coups there has been an attempt to reincorporate traditional principles into the legal system.

Conflict. There were ceremonial ways of asking forgiveness where there was a wish for reconciliation, ending with the drinking of kava. The vasu could also defuse potential conflict, being able effectively to represent the female side in a patrilineal society.

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