Guadalcanal - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The five dispersed matrilineal clans form the largest unit that establishes kin-based rights and obligations, specifically regarding hospitality, but at this level these rights and obligations are somewhat attenuated. The localized subclan of the hamlet serves far more significantly as a unit of organization—from this level community work parties for the clearing of gardens, women's gathering groups, and the like are drawn. For overseas trading expeditions, men from a number of hamlets in the village cooperate; these groups crosscut subclan ties.

Political Organization. The traditional system relied on the influence of senior men to whom others in the hamlet would turn for help in resolving conflicts or organizing work parties on a scale larger than the household. Leadership was traditionally based on the amassing of wealth (in the form of strings of shell money) and prestige. The largest unit of Organization and cooperation—for overseas trading expeditions and for war—was the village, and the most influential of the hamlet headmen would lead his fellows in achieving consensus for such decisions. This system suffered early from the effects of colonization and missionization when the bases of Village and headman influence were suppressed by church and administrative policies.

Social Control. Shaming was traditionally a principal means of securing appropriate social behavior, although recourse was often taken to the counsel of hamlet or village headmen when disputes or asocial behavior required outside intervention. Training from childhood is geared to inculcate qualities of cooperation, respect, and tolerance, but in the day-to-day life of the hamlet and village frictions do arise Between individuals. At such times, other kin will try to intervene to bring the miscreant to his or her senses. When necessary a hamlet or village headman will step in to mediate and effect a reconciliation between mutually offended parties. Now recourse is taken to courts and government councils.

Conflict. Conflict might arise over theft or the killing of another man's pig, but the principal cause is said to be adultery. When this occurs between members of different villages, it may be redressed through "death sorcery." If an individual is thought to have been killed by sorcery, a diviner identifies the sorcerer and countersorcery is attempted. Open violence used to be resorted to if the victim was an important leader; this method involved hiring a party of warriors, not of the victim's subclan, who would undertake to kill the sorcerer and bring back his head, after which the kin of the slain sorcerer had to be paid compensation in shell money and teeth.

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