Mafulu - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The largest effective social group is the community, composed of several villages. Villages of the community (particularly those of the same clan) cooperate in feasting, ceremonies, protection, and occasionally hunting and fishing. The number of villages of the same clan within a community varies as they divide and recombine over the course of several years. Villages of the same clan within a community have a common chief ( amidi ) who normally succeeds to his position by primogeniture. The chiefs ceremonial emone, the men's house in the village where he lives, is the site of feasts. Clans are not named, nor do they share a common totemic emblem. Instead, people identify their Social affiliation by using the name of their amidi.

Political Organization. The community is the largest Political unit. Each clan within the community has a chief who has a house in each village of his clan. His basic residence, however, is in the same village as his ceremonial men's house. The amidi's only authority is as the hereditary leader of his clan within a community. There are also clan leaders for warfare, division of pigs, and other political activities. Decision making within communities is done cooperatively by the amidi of the clans in the community and other leaders.

Social Control. The amidi only exerts control within a Village in his role as the senior member of a clan. In most instances of homicide, seduction etc., members of the aggrieved clan or village take retribution themselves on the offenders if they are from outside the community. Gossip and the threats of shame and retribution induced by self-mutilation or suicide also control open disagreement and violence in the community.

Conflict. Even after European contact, raids between communities continued. The most frequent causes of disputes were the seduction of wives and theft of pigs. The warfare and sorcery that often followed was waged between Communities. Retribution could be taken on any member of the opposing clan or community. Early missionary sources state that cannibalism was not practiced, but this report is disputed by ethnographic and later missionary accounts.

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