Marind-anim - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. As mentioned above under kinship, Marind social organization is based on the ties formed through the structure of subclans, clans, phratries, and moieties spread across the various inland and coastal Communities. These ties are reinforced through the religious beliefs and cult activities discussed below.

Political Organization. Despite the absence of any form of all-encompassing political organization, there was a sense of "belonging together." This sense found expression in the placement of local clan names under the labels of the nine or ten superclans, which were found all across Marind-anim territory. A more important source of solidarity was found in the great cults. The "Imo," followed by a number of inland subtribes and a few communities on the coast, acknowledged a central leadership that was settled on the coast. The "Mayo," the biggest and most impressive of all, lacked such leadership. It originated in the far-eastern coastal region and spread all along the coast where the initiation rites were performed by every subtribe for itself once every four years during a period lasting from six to nine months. In the first year of the four-year cycle the Mayo was celebrated by the subtribes in the far-western communities, the second year in the midwestern, the third year in the mideastern, and the fourth year in the far-eastern.

Social Control. Social control is largely informal. Apart from the leader of the Imo cult, the Marind have no other official authorities, save for the leading men of the men's houses whose influence is restricted and in practice is dependent on their age and personality. A more effective means of guaranteeing modest behavior is the fear of sorcery, which can be committed by or on behalf of anyone who bears a grudge.

Conflict. Disagreements over issues such as women or the use of garden land will usually be resolved if the disputants are members of the same community. If left unresolved, a grudge may be held until an accidental death leads to a suspicion of sorcery, a belief that is alternately the cause and the consequence of the prevailing mistrust between members of different subtribes. Accusations of sorcery often lead to Serious brawls involving bloodshed, although heads are not taken and peace will eventually be restored through pressure exerted by other community members.

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