Mandak - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The dynamics of the social system are characterized by oppositions elicited in different contexts. At the broadest level, the matrilineal, exogamous moieties are contrasted as complementary units, giving or receiving nurturance from one another through men's work in the procreation and nurturance of their offspring. The same contrast may be evoked in relating clans, lineages, or individuals. Same-unit membership (of moiety, clan, lineage) entails a focus on shared nurturance. The hamlet is owned and identified with a lineage, ideally with the social unit's oldest male in control of its men's house. Hamlets may include members of different clans, through affinal, paternal, and other ties to the owning lineage. Social units are not localized, and thus they may be spread over a number of villages, while the social unit's identity is localized in one hamlet and its men's house in whose adjacent yard lineage members are buried.

Political Organization. Political power adheres in the activities of big-men. All middle-aged and older men are recognized as having the capacity for political influence. The oldest man of the lineage is regarded as the representative of that Social unit, for purposes of land arbitrations, feast sponsorship, and in certain formal feast exchanges. One or more men of each village may be recognized as having particular "strength" and "power." Such men are more active than others in sponsoring social events and in gaining village consensus in largescale village cooperative action. Such men's reputations extend beyond their own community to other villages. A variety of appointed (during early colonial decades) and then elected (since the 1960s) officials at the village, regional, and (since 1975) national level are involved in Mandak political activities. At times the big-man system works partly within these institutionalized authority positions, while at other times it coexists separately.

Social Control. In precontact times, there was no formalized social control at the village level. Usually, conflicts were handled either by fighting or clandestine sorcery. Fear of Sorcery attack or retaliation continues to serve as a powerful means of social control. Today, minor social disputes are handled at the village level in weekly meetings, established by German and Australian colonial governments, with various fines allotted by discussions led by big-men. Major problems are handled by formal courts at the regional level.

Conflict. Up to the 1920s, before pacification by colonial forces, sporadic warfare occurred both within and between villages.

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