Usino - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The cultural-linguistic unit that includes the mountain speakers of Usino is called a "phyle" since the word "tribe" is inappropriate for a group which lacks corporate existence. The phyle is divided into smaller units, based on slight differences in culture. The lowland Usino subphyle is divided into four "parishes," political units associated with defined tracts of land. Members of these parishes have grouped along kinship lines into villages and hamlets, but members of extraphyle parishes are also incorporated into the villages. Each Usino parish is subdivided into two smaller social and territorial subunits called carpels, the exogamous patrilineal groups (discussed previously) that have their Social centers within parish territory. The Usino social structure is one of discrete multicarpellary parishes, because each parish has a set of unilinear kinship groups that belong to it and to it alone. Parishes in this system may be self-sufficient, and in precontact times they always were. Unlike the neighboring mountain-dwelling Garia, Usino people have definite Territorial groups with fixed boundaries.

Political Organization. Each patrilineage, or carpel, has a patriarch who oversees land and ritual that is patrilineally Inherited, but for the most part he is a figurehead for the Descent group. Actual leadership depends on a combination of personal qualities. The vernacular term for big-man ( namagem ) means "good man" and can refer to any man who excels in some way. Almost all men over age 40 are considered namagem in some capacity, but leaders are those who excel in activities such as accumulating pigs, wealth, or trade partners and who demonstrate skill at initiating and directing communal activities. There are no distinctive visual symbols of Economic differentiation and no obvious differences in standard of living, consumption, or material wealth. What little status differentiation exists is based on acquired trade ties, the possession of powerful ritual names and secrets, or access to cash.

Social Control. Internal hostilities are managed through informal mechanisms such as gossip, physical confrontation, threat of sorcery, and health beliefs that attribute illness to unresolved grievances, disharmony, and intervention by ancestral spirits. Pigs destroying gardens, bride-price and childprice, marital disputes, and trespass on hunting rights are primary sources of interpersonal conflict. In a washing Ceremony, disputants absolve one another of transgression. Village moots or courts consider those cases that defy informal settlement, and government courts are used as a last resort.

Conflict. Extraphyle raiding characterized external conflict until the 1920s and 1930s, when Usino voluntarily accepted pacification. Relations with other groups are generally amicable, but issues over exchange, land use, and sorcery occasionally require traditional methods of dispute settlement—that is, a moot or court in which the contending parties air their differences and seek consensus. If consensus is not attained, sorcery or appeal to government courts may follow.

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