Ningerum - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Ningerum social relations are centered on maintaining a network of alliances between a local clan segment and surrounding clan segments. Before pacification, such positive relations created a security circle for each isolated household. Such ties consolidated land rights and minimized resource scarcities for local groups. A complex set of social obligations consisting of ongoing bride-price, child-price, widow-price, death payments, burial payments, and other personal debts ensured continuing positive relations between neighboring allied families, as long as token payments were made from time to time. Today, allied families cooperate for feasting, ritual activities, house building, and fence building. Formerly, they also supported one another in defense and raiding.

Political Organization. Traditionally there was no form of central authority or hereditary leadership whose authority extended beyond the extended family household. Often Political authority was only nominal within a large household. Influential men ( kaa horen ), elder members of the local clan segment, attempted to exert authority over their families through exhortations to action and proper behavior, but they had few other ways to influence their kin. Today, a man of Influence is often able to attract support from clan segments whose members are related to him through blood or marriage. Such ties, however, offer a very weak source of political cohesion and relatives often ignore exhortations. In the 1950s, Village constables ( mamus ) were appointed in most villages by the Australian administration. Although most of these men were chosen because they were prominent, even the government's backing did little to augment their authority or expand political cohesion within the region. The Ningerum Local Government Council was established in 1971 with Councillors elected to represent two or three villages.

Social Control. In principle, conflict should not exist within a local clan segment, but disagreements leading to Sorcery accusations among close relatives are not uncommon. There are no formal courts to air disputes and in the past a household or clan segment (together with allied individuals) would attack another household to defend their rights. Today, fear of sorcery and government intervention serve as the only mechanisms for maintaining cohesion within the villages.

Conflict. Before pacification in the 1950s, raids by small groups of warriors were a constant threat. Conflict typically arose as the result of sorcery suspicions following an unexpected death. Usually a single individual was the chosen victim in a raid. Since government control was established, traditional tensions have not abated and traditional forms of conflict have been rechannelled into heightened sorcery fears and frequent accusations of assault sorcery. In recent times, sorcery accusations have often been leveled against very close relatives, especially brothers and parallel cousins.

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