Murik - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Social organization is oriented toward the proliferation of ties to other individuals and groups through exchange relations. Adoption, fictive kinship, exogamy, and assimilation of others into Murik villages are means to this end. Descent groups are residentially dispersed and convene to legitimate the transfer of status and to coordinate trade and ritual work. Village loyalty is extremely high. Villages are affiliated through intermarriage, but those who marry in lack a local support group of cognatic kin.

Political Organization. Senior members of the descent groups in each village provide political leadership. These Individuals control the descent-group insignia ( suman), named ornaments of shells, feathers, and other valuables assembled and displayed on ritual occasions. The firstborn of a descent group in each village controls the suman, in whose presence there may be no conflict or violence. He or she thus manages resources, evaluates membership claims, and settles disputes. Transfer of suman from one individual to another must be legitimated by the combined leaders from all of the villages who give prior approval and attend in person the ritual bestowal of suman.

Social Control. Wrongdoing and guilt are indicated by untoward events, illness, or unexpected death. The causes are established by consulting oracles and developing a consensus interpretation. Public exposure of the offense is sufficient to curtail its consequences. Gossip and aggressive joking are important mechanisms of social control, as are mocking and mimicry by formal joking partners who must be compensated for their performances.

Conflict. Intratribal conflict occurs most frequently over sexual jealousy and group membership claims. These are settled either by a public hearing or negotiations among descentgroup leaders, who may award compensation in the form of pigs. Prior to European intervention, armed conflict with non-Murik peoples, particularly the sago-producing villages, was the norm. Neighboring peoples sometimes arranged for the Murik to rid them of suspected sorcerers and other enemies.

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