Miyanmin - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Traditional society was highly egalitarian with generalized sharing of resources within parishes and with visiting members of paired or allied parishes being an absolute value. Patrilineages were and remain significant landholding units with parishes then and now involved in external challenges to sovereignty. Modernization, however, has increased the frequency of disputes over resources, and assertions of lineage-based rights are today much more visible than they were in the 1960s, particularly around the airstrip villages.

Leadership. Miyanmin conform to the big-man pattern that has been identified for other fringe highland groups in which unstratified leadership roles are diffused widely and competence is defined narrowly in relation to such activities as agriculture, hunting, ritual, curing, and intergroup politics or war. Nevertheless, traditional war leaders were esteemed highly and parish oral history is organized in a framework comprised of the names of a succession of such men over ten or more generations.

Political Organization. Traditionally, the Miyanmin parishes were autonomous units with many concerns upon which they could act, including interparish affairs. A parish was also a ceremonial group, maintaining a cult house, organizing religious ceremonies, and building a dance house in connection with festivals attracting regional participation. Among the higher-altitude am-nakai groups, parishes were often paired in close cooperative relationships functioning jointly to exploit land. The ten am-nakai parishes of the Thurnwald Range and May Valley also formed a military alliance to campaign against the Telefolmin and Atbalmin to the south or to prey on excluded Miyanmin groups, including some of the sa-nakai, and riverine peoples of the Lower May. Since the national independence of Papua New Guinea in 1975, Miyanmin are conscious of their citizenship, identify with the "Pan-Min" movement of the Mountain Ok peoples at large that was sparked by the development of gold and Copper mines in the region, and attempt to participate in political affairs. This participation has been stymied because of their small population.

Conflict and Social Control. Miyanmin warfare included cannibalism, the abduction of nubile women and children of either sex, plunder, and the destruction of enemy assets. Among the am-nakai social control was exercised through public opinion, through consensus building in men's-house or cult-house discussions in which elders and big-men may have greater voices, and, in extreme cases as in the context of an adult death, through the mediumship of a shaman in a mortuary ritual. Threats to social order range from domestic pigs damaging gardens, to disputes over property, to adultery and other offenses involving women, to homicide. At all levels, including within households, individual violence or its threat is the typical sanction, sometimes augmented by public opinion. The highest levels of intraparish conflict in which public opinion is divided can lead to parish fission and longterm enmity. Interparish disputes frequently culminated in brief, violent clashes with a few deaths, burned houses, and territorial losses. Losers were allowed to return to salvage planting material from their gardens. Contrastingly, the sanakai groups are stereotypically anarchistic with high levels of interpersonal and intergroup violence and low group solidarity.

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