Foi - Sociopolitical Organization

Political Organization. Three or four villages occupying contiguous territories, whose longhouses are close to each other, constitute an extended community. Less than 10 percent of all marriages take place between villages from Different extended communities. Within this unit, set battles did not occur, though sorcery and homicide did. The extended community was the traditional unit of warfare alliance and nowadays is the political unit of ceremonial exchange. In the 1970s the Foi borrowed the pork-and-shell-exchange cycle of their highlands neighbors. This involves periodic large-scale pig slaughters, fueled by the collection and disbursement of pledges of shell wealth. Debts in pork and shells accumulate with each pig kill and villages take turns in discharging their obligations to creditors. These activities are coordinated and controlled by big-men.

Social Control. Within each local clan, one or two men occupy positions of respect and authority, based on former prowess in warfare, success in negotiating marriages and Exchange relationships, oratorical ability, magic, skill in healing, and reputed knowledge of sorcery. Each village has two to four such big-men who represent the village as a whole to outsiders. "Social control" among Foi depends on the degree to which the astuteness and judgment of big-men is acknowledged by other men.

Conflict. While major warfare between foreign and distant villages was not endemic, sorcery, ambush, and assassination were certainly regular occurrences in traditional times. Fear of sorcery and revenge killing and considerations of high death-compensation payments to the victim's kin constituted moderately effective sanctions against violence and homicide in the past; ethical commandments and fear of retribution in the Christian afterlife passed on by missionaries have been absorbed as models and incentives for correct behavior. Homicide and violence today are rare, suicide less so.

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