Manus - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Villages are organized around the structure of patricians, which shape rights in real property, and the structure of cognatic stocks, which shape participation in exchange. (Matriclans are relatively unimportant here.) Patricians and stocks are localized and do not facilitate intervillage relationships. Patricians are small (at times no more than five or six resident adults), and lineages are even smaller. Thus, they commonly recruit nonmembers for productive and ceremonial activities, typically from cognatic stocks descended from out-marrying patrician (or lineage) women of earlier generations. This is often described as a distinction between the line (descendants) of the man (the brother) and the line of the woman (the out-marrying sister). A distinction between a line of the man and a line of the woman first appears at marriage, between the line of the groom and of the bride. For the children of the marriage, the distinction is between the line of the father and of the mother. In subsequent generations, it is the line of the man and of the woman. Villagers also distinguish residents and migrants, though this is reflected in practices rather than structures. Many ceremonial exchanges are organized to accommodate the schedules and wishes of important migrants,, and the rules and practices of contribution and distribution help assure that migrants' contributions remain in the hands of residents.

Political Organization. Village political organization revolves around patricians and village factions. Hereditary patrician leaders are supposed to lead patrician activities and Influence patrician political decisions, though within a general framework of consensus. Often, different village patricians were responsible for villagewide activities, such as making war, making peace, and village governance. Patricians and their leaders are more powerful in those villages where clan land is of prime economic significance, not overshadowed by introduced economic resources that are beyond the control of villages (especially wage labor). Village factions often reflect patrician differences, but also reflect different orientations to contemporary conditions and issues. Most common are different orientations to modernization, tradition, and Christianity. Villages have formal governments, including an elected village leader and assistant, elected magistrates and constable, and usually an elected representative to the local subprovincial governing body. Electoral districts for Provincial and national parliaments include more than one village, and elections for these bodies often unite villagers in support for the candidate from their village. Provincial party allegiance is weak and people often say that representatives are swayed by gifts and favors.

Social Control. Ideally, relations within the patrician are amicable. This is less true of relations between patricians and villages, which may be tense and even violent. Behavior is controlled in three ways. One is the sanction of agnatic ancestors, who monitor the acts of their living descendants and in cases of unresolved grievance may inflict illness, which can be fatal. Someone suspecting an ancestral illness will call a meeting of relatives, where all are to confess their hidden grievances and resolve them. As ancestors monitor migrants as well as residents, this helps tie migrants to their natal Village. Second is the power of specific classes of ego's kin (especially classificatory father's sister, father's sister's daughter, and father's sister's son). These have the power to bless or curse, and can use their power to ensure ego's proper behavior. Third is the village court system. Cases of slander and petty theft, as well as more serious matters, are routinely heard by village magistrates. Higher-level courts are seldom used.

Conflict. Prior to colonial control, raiding and open warfare between villages were common. Conflict was common when mainland or island groups moved to coastal land, and so it helped maintain the ecological division of villages and the related trade system. Intravillage, interclan fighting occurred, but such conflicts seem to have been unusual and informal, though sorcery attacks among villagers did occur. Such fighting could lead to village fission. Modern intervillage conflict is not common, occurring mainly when residents of one village use the land or seas of other villages. There is conflict between villages and government over the imposition of taxes and, more recently, over provincial government policies. Such conflicts reflect a recurring regional division Between southern and northern Manus.

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