Garia - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The most important component of social organization is what anthropologist Peter Lawrence calls the "security circle," a (male) Ego-centered network based on kinship, descent, affinity, and special interpersonal relationships such as those arising from common economic interests, coresidence, trade partnerships, and coinitiation. Close kin constitute the core of the security circle, within which one may not marry; nor may one eat animals raised by other members of one's security-circle or engage in any violent behavior. While security-circle members are invariably dispersed across the landscape, they are obligated to cooperate with and provide support to one another.

Political Organization. While government-appointed headmen, and now elected officials, represent Garia in formal provincial and national assemblies, at the local level all social action, including pig exchanges, initiation ceremonies, Gardening activities, and the establishment of settlements, is set in motion by the decisions of big-men. A man becomes such a leader by attaining a reputation based on his self-confidence, oratorical powers, and ability to assemble wealth for exchanges and to coordinate and supervise group activities. It is also essential that he demonstrate effectiveness in the superhuman realm, for he is depended upon to perform rituals as well as to be the catalyst for other events. A bigman's power rests on popular approval and he has no judicial authority.

Social Control. As a child learns at an early age, the withdrawal of cooperation and support are powerful Garia sanctions, and they are combined with shame and local criticism as ways to redress secular offenses. Garia emphasize self-regulation and when disputes do arise—over theft, invasions of gardens by pigs, homicide, adultery, or sorcery—they are expected to be settled in moots with the aid of neutral kin whose aim is compromise, which might involve compensation, retaliation, or, nowadays, a football match between the security circles of the respective parties. Most disputes are thus resolved or gradually fade into oblivion. The Garia say that in the past women were put to death for witnessing men's initiation secrets, but in general, and certainly in recent decades, breaches of taboos usually just result in moral condemnation and stigma. Punishment is left up to ghosts and the gods, who might visit the guilty party with crop destruction, bad luck, illness, or death.

Conflict. Garia never united in war against their Neighbors, but on rare occasions intragroup warfare erupted over an unresolved sorcery feud.

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