Manam - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Unlike most New Guinea societies which are egalitarian, Manam is hierarchically organized into two hereditary social groups: an elite ( tanepoa ) and commoners ( gadagada ). Membership is based on patrilineal descent.

Political Organization. In precontact times Manam Villages were politically autonomous. Each village was ruled by a hereditary chief called tanepoa labalaba, a position based on primogeniture. Each clan had a leader ( bagi sema ) whose position was also based on primogeniture. Although the Manam now elect a village councillor to represent them on the island's Local Government Council, in effect tanepoa labalaba are still the village leaders. The Manam also elect national and provincial representatives.

Social Control. In the past the tanepoa used the threat of sorcery and physical violence to exert social control. At Present tanepoa and village councillors adjudicate local civil cases of adultery, divorce, theft, etc., or they refer offenders to the district officer and court.

Conflict. In the past incidental fighting and formal warfare, both between villages and between the Manam and mainland groups, were endemic. Conflicts were settled by negotiation of the payment of pigs and valuables. At present, although physical violence still erupts, payment of monetary compensation or jail are the main sanctions against conflict.

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