Mountain Arapesh - Sociopolitical Organization

Political Organization. The patrilineages of several Hamlets formed a named "hamlet center" or "village." Several hamlet centers in turn formed a "locality" or "sovereign group" of 200 to 300 people: Alitoa locality had four hamlet centers and a total population of 217. Localities were territorially defined and, in essence, were military confederacies. Their patrilineages were divided on a territorial basis between the Ginyau and Iwhul moieties, totemically represented in most cases by the hawk and parrot, respectively. Adult males inherited, usually patrilineally, a competitive exchange partner ( buanyin ) from the opposite moiety, and the exchange of yams, pigs, and game between these partners played a prominent role in political practice. There being no concept of rank, hereditary authority, or organized leadership, politics revolved around big-men, who climbed to influence on the basis of ability, ambition, and performance in feast giving and exchanges with buanyin, gift friends, and gabunyan partners. Gift friendships and gabunyan partnerships were the principal links besides marriage among localities. Each patrilineage had gift friends in neighboring localities, and these partnerships linked localities into one of three major trading "roads" that crossed the mountains from the inland foothills to the sea, providing safe routes to move abroad and trade in "Secular" items of ceremonial and artistic culture. The gabunyan partnerships existed between the most important men of the localities and were vehicles by which a locality purchased the "esoteric" dance complexes, masks, and services related to the wareh (tambaran) initiation cult.

Conflict. "Warfare was good Arapesh custom," and approximately half of the older men claimed at least one battle kill to their credit. Sometimes war broke out among the patrilineages of a locality, but more usually it occurred among localities, especially those lying on different trade routes. Interlocality fighting was precipitated primarily by the abduction of women (with their consent), and it took the form of ambushes on hamlets or confrontations across traditional Battlefields situated on locality frontiers. On very rare occasions, conflict within a patrilineage also precipitated homicide.

Social Control. Mead may have overemphasized the gentle and unaggressive nature of Mountain Arapesh life, but it is clear that docility and altruism were highly valued. There were few mechanisms for controlling deviance but, inFormally, gossip and ostracism evidently were used to advantage. At a more formal level, sorcery and invocations to the ancestors were available to the disgruntled, and a man could revenge himself on a delinquent sister's husband by cursing the sister and her children to death. Men who had been publically abused by a wife or young relative might be subject to the discipline of the tambaran, also called the wareh, carried out by a group of men who came at night to destroy some man's property.

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