Orokolo - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Social organization is very complex, consisting of a great many crosscutting units, primarily based on residence, descent, and age affiliation. In terms of Residence, the Elema people are divided into tribes, of which the Orokolo is one, and subdivided into village groups, villages, and units called karigara, or village segments. Each village segment is normally associated with a men's house or eravo. These eravo communities are further subdivided into bira'ipi, units that combine descent and residence principles. In terms of descent, Orokolo have the previously described patrilineal clans and lineages. They also recognize a variety of fictive friendship relationships, as well as numerous named age groups that pass through a series of eight age grades. Political Organization. The Orokolo are fundamentally an egalitarian culture, and influential people typically achieve their status through a combination of individual competence, force of personality, age, and experience. Each eravo or men's house community has a dual division, with each half technically headed by a "chief." The entire group also has a "village chief," a descendant of one of the original settlers who owned and controlled village land, although this chief is often one of the eravo chiefs. In practice, these chiefs cannot command action and have very little power, since decisions are usually reached through group consensus.

Social Control. In the absence of a coercive tradition, Social control within the group is maintained largely through the strength of public opinion and the fear of supernatural retribution. Since reciprocity is so important in Orokolo activities, individuals who do not meet their social obligations soon have problems. Sexual infidelities and perceived inequalities in exchange are common causes of conflict within the village. Cases are usually settled in group meetings with the aid of influential men who act as mediators. Traditionally, each clan had a "chief" ( bukari ) with particular legitimacy to stop conflicts and achieve settlement by virtue of his control over the clan bullroarer.

Conflict. Before European contact, warfare between tribes was not uncommon, though it was very rare within the tribe.

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