Gnau - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Social units are organized according to two separate principles. The first is locational, based on claims of attachment to the place of one's birth and of one's ancestors' birth. Thus an individual's membership in a village is in part defined by the fact that he or she was born there, parents came from there, or a more distant ancestor can be shown to have been born there. Patrilineal descent provides the second principle of organization, establishing separate subdivisions (hamlets) within the confines of a single village and further subdivisions within the hamlet itself. Units of social cooperation and obligation are couched in terms of brotherhood relations or ties established by marriage.

Political Organization. Traditionally, Gnau communities had no recognized political unit or office and no overarching intervillage organization. Apart from skill in mobilizing people for defense in the days of intervillage warfare, kinship and affinal relations, deference of junior to elder, and personally achieved prestige were, and still are, the considerations that led to a man's being looked to as a leader. Since 1964, Gnau have begun participating in the election of representatives to the House of Assembly, and in 1967 they began selecting local government councillors. These developments have begun to bring the separate villages into more unified polities, and the newly instituted political offices serve as points of articulation between local communities and the national government.

Social Control. A system of taboos, many of them dietary, provides the framework for appropriate behavior. Infractions may be punished by the imposition of fines, as in the case of adultery. Some fear of retributive sorcery also contributes to social control, albeit in a negative sense: a woman's brother is thought to have the ritual and magical power necessary to influence the health—indeed, the life—of her children, and he might withhold that power should the husband's lineage fail to fulfill its obligations to the child or refuse to cooperate with the wife's kin.

Conflict. Serious conflicts often arose between villages prior to Western contact, and fighting was considered to be a highly prestigious activity. Except for the prestige conferred by success in war, there seems to have been little other real basis for intervillage hostilities: garden land and access to game were plentiful and there was little else by way of intervil1age relations that might have given rise to friction. Gnau did not recruit allies throughout the region for warfare; rather, fighting was conducted on a strictly village-against-village basis.

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