Kilenge - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Birth order, genealogical seniority, age, sex, and ability combine to provide one's relative status in Kilenge society. Solidarity decreases in intensity from the household level through sibling groups, men's house groups, villages, and Kilenge society as a whole. Kinship ties can crosscut organizational affiliations.

Political Organization. Traditionally, the men's house group, or naulum, served as the basic political unit. A natavolo, or hereditary leader, headed each naulum. Hereditary leadership candidates validated their claims to natavolo Status by organizing ceremonies, trading expeditions, wars, and feuds and by arranging marriages. Today, under an imposed administrative structure, the village is the basic political unit. The senior natavolo in each village is ideally the village leader in traditional activities, but he must compete with appointed and elected government functionaries. The hereditary leader serves mainly as an organizer of ceremonies, but recently hereditary leaders have become prominent in commercial activities, using their status to organize their followers for business undertakings. Villagers elect representatives to the Gloucester Local Government Council, the West New Britain Provincial Government, the National Parliament in Port Moresby, and a variety of local bodies.

Social Control. Contemporary sanctions for serious offenses (murder, theft of imported goods) are the prerogative of the national government and its appointed agents (the Police, village magistrates, the court system). Gossip and fear of sorcery act as powerful sanctions against violation of local norms and conventions. Traditionally, the hereditary leader of the men's house group acted as the final arbiter of social control. He could order the death, through physical or supernatural means, of a recalcitrant follower. He could also, through the use of sacred "Nausang" masks, have offenders beaten and their property confiscated. Followers could use sorcery on or assassinate a tyrannical leader, or they could join other men's house groups.

Conflict. In the past, naulum and naulum clusters went to war over violation of property rights, women, and sacred injunctions. A group's hereditary leader would assess his own strength and the potential enemy's strength, and then decide on a course of war or peace. Battles were fought as individual spear duels between lines of men. People related to members on both sides of the conflict would facilitate eventual peacemaking, but violations of sacred injunctions usually resulted in surprise attacks and extermination of the violator's group. Colonial rule saw the end of organized conflict. Open conflict is now settled either locally or, if violent, by the police. People pursue hidden conflict using sorcery.

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