Kaluli - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The longhouse is the most significant unit of social, economic, and ritual cooperation among the Kaluli, taking precedence over clan and lineage affiliation in most practical matters. Longhouses are tied to one another, however, through the gift-exchange relationships established between affines, sibling sets, and patrilaterally and matrilaterally reckoned kin, and these extracommunity relationships may be called upon by an individual to secure hospitality or support.

Political Organization. Kaluli society is essentially egalitarian, having no formally understood positions of Leadership. Elders tend to wield more influence than younger men, but group action may be initiated by any adult male who can successfully enlist supporters for his cause.

Social Control. In the absence of formal leadership offices, social control is dependent upon informal sanctions such as gossip or ostracism, and an individual deemed guilty of a social or personal infraction may be met with demands for compensation by the aggrieved party or parties. Beliefs in spirits provide supernatural sanctions for violations of food taboos. The threat of retributive raids once served as an important means of discouraging serious transgressions, but the government no longer permits recourse to this sanction.

Conflict. The principal sources of conflict are theft of wealth or of women and (pre-1960) retribution for a death. Deaths are held to be the result of witchcraft, regardless of the apparent cause. In such cases, close friends and kinsmen of the deceased would determine the party responsible through divination and then organize a raiding party to attack the witch's longhouse. Members of the raiding party would converge on the longhouse at night, rushing the building at dawn with the express purpose of clubbing the witch to death. The body of the witch would be cut up and distributed to kin of the raiding party participants. Later, the members of the raiding party would pay compensation to the longhouse of the witch in order to prevent further retributive raids. Government intervention on the plateau brought retributive raiding and its attendant cannibalism to an end in the 1960s but provided no alternative means of redressing a death. Instead, an accused witch is now confronted and compensation is demanded, but there is no means to enforce payment.

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