Mae Enga - Sociopolitical Organization

Since 1975, Mae have been citizens of the Nation-state of Papua New Guinea, a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations with a Westminster system of government.

Social Organization. Traditional Mae society was relatively egalitarian and economically homogeneous and remains largely so in the 1980s despite the effects of international commerce. The 120 or so patricians are still significant landholding units, and they and their component segments are corporately involved in a wide variety of events. A clan engages in warfare and peacemaking; initiates payments of pigs and, today, money as homicide compensation for slain enemies and allies; organizes large-scale distributions of pigs and valuables in the elaborate interclan ceremonial exchange cycle; and participates in irregularly held rituals to propitiate clan ancestors. No hereditary or formally elected clan chiefs direct these activities; they are coordinated by able and influential men who, through their past managerial successes, have acquired "big names." The arable land of a clan is Divided among its subclans, which hold funeral feasts for their dead, exchange pork and other valuables with matrilateral kin of the deceased, and also compensate the matrikin of Members who have been insulted, injured, or ill. Bachelors usually organize their purificatory rituals on a subclan basis. Subclan land is in turn divided among component patrilineages, whose members contribute valuables to bride-price or to Return gifts as their juniors wed those of lineages in other clans. Lineage members also help each other in house building and in clearing garden land. Today clan solidarity, as well as interclan hostility, importantly determines who individual voters support in national, provincial, and local council elections. All of these Australian-inspired governmental entities provide the extraclan public services, such as schools, clinics, courts, constabulary, post offices, and roads, on which Mae now depend heavily.

Social Control and Conflict. Within the clan social Control is still largely exercised through public opinion, including ridicule, implicit threats by agnates to withdraw the economic support and labor on which all families rely, and the pervasive influence of prominent big-men in informal moots. The ultimate sanction, even within the household, is physical violence. Formerly clans within a phratry or neighborhood could resort to similar courts jointly steered by their big-men to reach reluctant compromises; but such negotiations, especially over land or pigs, frequently erupted in bloodshed. The Australian colonial administration supplemented courts with more formal and fairly effective Courts for Native Affairs, which after independence were replaced by Village Courts with elected local magistrates. Nevertheless, clans in conflict, whether over land encroachment or homicides, still turn quickly to warfare to settle matters despite attempts by armed mobile squads of national police to deter them.

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