Boazi - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. While social relations among Boazi-speaking men are egalitarian, social relations between the sexes are unequal, with men having more power than women. Traditionally, the only leadership position was that of war leader ( kamok-anem ). This position was generally occupied by married men between 30 and 45 years of age who earned the position by demonstrating courage and cunning in warfare. Today, each Boazi village has an elected representative to the local government council which is the lowest level of representative government in Papua New Guinea.

Political Organization. The maximal political units are the territorial groups, which range in population from 50 to 1,000 people. In Boazi, these territorial groups are called mangge izwam or "land people." Traditionally, each territorial group lived in a constant state of war with its neighbors, and even today relations between territorial groups are often tense and occasionally hostile, and the borders between groups are under almost constant dispute. A person belongs to the territorial group into which he or she is born. Each territorial group has two types of members: miavek and bwiatak. The former are patrilineal descendents of one of the original members of the territorial group. The latter are individuals who have come to live with the territorial group, either through their own migration or through the migration of one of their patrilineal ancestors. Because they are descended from the original members of the territorial group, miavek members have somewhat stronger claims to land and sago swamps.

Social Control. Social control is maintained through threats of physical retaliation and sorcery. Both forms of social control have been seriously undermined, however, by the colonial and postcolonial governments and by Christian missionaries. The government has made both physical retaliation and sorcery criminal offenses, and the teachings of missionaries have led many young Boazi speakers to question the efficacy of sorcery.

Conflict. Warfare was an important part of traditional Boazi culture. Boazi speakers were fierce headhunters and cannibals who were feared by many groups in the southern lowlands of New Guinea. Even today, conflicts between territorial groups are continual, with most conflicts stemming from disputes over women or land. There is also considerable strife within territorial groups, but in these cases individuals have the option of moving to another camp or village.

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