Kapauku - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The Kapauku patrilineage is a nonlocalized grouping whose membership claims descent from a common apical ancestor. Its dispersed character makes it inutile for political purposes; rather, its functions pertain to the regulation of marriage, the establishment of interpersonal obligations of support (both personal and economic), and religion. The sib establishes shared totemic taboos that involve its members in relations of mutual ritual obligation, particularly in the matter of redressing taboo violations. Most day-to-day rights and obligations are incurred within the localized patrilineal group; it is to members of this group that an Individual will turn for assistance in amassing the bride-wealth necessary for marriage, as well as for allies in conflicts arising with outsiders. Within the village, households are relatively autonomous, as each household head is able to call on fellow members for support in economic and ritual endeavors.

Political Organization. Kapauku leadership is based on personal influence, developed through the accumulation of wealth in shells and pigs, particularly through sponsoring pig feasts. A headman ( tonowi ) uses his prestige and wealth to induce the compliance of others, particularly through the Extension or refusal of credit. Again, the principle of organization is based upon the tracing of at least putative kinship ties, and the larger the group of individuals united in a political unit, the more these ties are based on tradition rather than demonstrable links. The most inclusive politically organized group is the confederacy, which consists of two or more localized lineages that may or may not belong to the same sib. Such groups unite for defense as well as for offense against nonmember groups. The leader of the strongest lineage is also the leader of the confederacy, and as such this leader is responsible for adjudicating disputes to avoid the possibility of intraconfederacy feuding. He is equally responsible for representing the confederacy in dealings and dispute settlement with outsiders, deciding upon the necessity of war, and negotiating terms of peace with hostile groups. Leadership is ostensibly the province of men only, but in practice considerable influence may be wielded by women.

Social Control. Social control is effected in Kapauku local groups by inducement rather than by force. The primary form of inducement is the extension or withdrawal of credit. Since a headman's supporters are tied to him through his economic largess, the threat of a withdrawal of credit, or of a premature demand for repayment, provides strong inducement for Others to accede to the headman's wishes. Sanctions such as public scolding or shooting an arrow into a miscreant's thigh are common, but in such cases the party being punished has the opportunity to fight back. Kin-based obligations to seek vengeance for the death of a lineage member are often invoked. Less frequently, to punish sorcerers, ostracism or death may be inflicted.

Conflict. Kapauku do not care for war, but members of a lineage are obligated to avenge the death of their kin. Warfare almost never occurs below the level of the confederacy, and it is most frequently occasioned by divorce. Wars are fought exclusively with bows and arrows. At the more localized level, disputes over economic interests or factional splits between two powerful headmen may lead to outbreaks of hostility to the point of violence. Such occasions may require the intervention of confederacy headmen.

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