Mejbrat - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Mejbrat social organization centers on the consanguineal family, defined in terms of the mother, mother's brother, and mother's brother's daughter. The Sibling relationship, with a differentiation between elders and juniors, also strongly influences the organization of people into cooperative groups.

Political Organization. Mejbrat society is essentially egalitarian, but a "first among equals" big-man system based on prestige and wealth is notable. Leadership status can be achieved by women as well as by men, but the range over which this leadership may be exercised is quite small—essentially limited to the household settlement. Government efforts to organize the Mejbrat into kampongs has had little apparent impact on Mejbrat political and social life: the kampongs tend to exist solely on paper, and the Mejbrat continue to follow traditional settlement and organizational patterns. This situation can be attributed largely to the fact that Governmental organizational expectations, being of a Western, male-centered model, are contradicted on all levels by traditional Mejbrat practice.

Social Control. Most of Mejbrat social control is effected through the belief in and observance of taboos regarding interpersonal behaviors. A rich system of totemic beliefs and supernatural sanctions serve to keep most problems in check. However, fines of cloth wealth may also be levied against an offending party—if a young man is caught engaging in Premarital sex, for example, the family of the young woman involved is entitled to demand that he "show respect" through payment of a great many cloths.

Warfare. There is no information available regarding Mejbrat warfare prior to the arrival of the Moluccan traders in the region, but it is known that once slaving was introduced the Mejbrat engaged in warfare. Dutch control eventually brought slaving to an end, and the Mejbrat are not known to be particularly interested in large-scale conflict.

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