Selepet - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Kinship responsibilities require that material goods be shared, so that Selepet society has never had class distinctions. Persons who leave the Selepet area for employment and do not send funds back to their relatives generally do not return.

Political Organization. Although villages often consist of several clans, the clan remains the largest stable political unit, so that within a village there is no certainty of interclan cooperation. A clan was generally led by the man who was most recognized as a religious practitioner. When the missionaries appointed non-Selepet pastors to exercise religious authority, men with other qualities (e.g., medical knowledge) became leaders. Political control in villages is exercised by committees composed of the clan leaders. Marital connections between clans, however, entail mutual support in times of conflict.

Social Control. The responsibilities of kin relationships and the dependency of members upon their clan for support entails an acceptance of the clan's values. Men have traditionally regarded women as inferior, and in aboriginal times they maintained control by keeping their cultic rituals secret and threatening the women with supernatural harm.

Conflict. Traditionally, loyalty was primarily to one's clan, so that aboriginal Selepet society was highly fragmented into warring factions. With the arrival of Europeans came peace, a greater freedom of movement, and an increased awareness of other peoples, so that loyalty has been extended to increasingly inclusive sociopolitical groups. Today the people seek to negotiate rather than resort to violence.

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