Wamira - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Marriage and matrilineal affiliation are the only social links that crosscut the geographically separate units of patrilocal residence and horticultural production and patrilineal political organization. Although lineage affiliation is the primary link across these otherwise separate and often antagonistic units, the links formed at marriages, which are rekindled and redefined at death, are neither strong nor numerous enough to bond the village together permanently as one unit. This is for two reasons. First, once a woman marries, she severs most ties to her natal family, including those to residential and horticultural land. She remains on her husband's land even after his death, returning to her natal land after his death only if she bore no sons to anchor her to her husband's land. The second reason is that about 82 percent of Wamiran women marry within their ward. Thus, even Marriages and deaths, with their accompanying rituals, Exchanges, and feasts, fail to bring together people of the two wards very often.

Political Organization. Leadership is hereditary, passing from a man to his firstborn son. Leaders command the Respect of Wamirans based upon observed qualities of wisdom, diligence, generosity, horticultural prowess, ceremonial skill, and their ability to organize their group to work. There is one traditional leader for the village as a whole, as well as one in each ward. Each of the eighteen patrilocal hamlets also has one acknowledged leader. The hamlet leader's primary power, which rests in (but is not guaranteed by) his genealogical Status of patrilineal primogeniture, must be continually reconfirmed. He achieves respect through his ability to organize and unify his groups and expresses his leadership through the manipulation of food at feasts. His group consists of smaller antagonistic hamlet sections, each of which also has its own genealogically ascribed leader of slightly lesser status than the hamlet leader. The presence of these aspiring competitors challenges a leader's powers and makes his task of unifying the group diffïcult. Rivalries and conflicts among minor Leaders usually threaten to erupt during the process of taro cultivation and harvest, when male powers are especially at stake.

Social Control.

Laughter at an individual's nonconformity and ostracism for more serious breaches of conduct function as the main forms of social control. In extreme cases, an Individual may be banished to his or her banana garden because of misconduct. Since 1964, local government councils have been established, which also settle major disputes.

Conflict. Prior to contact with Europeans and the cessation of village warfare, intervillage fights often resulted in cannibal raids. Today, conflict and competition surface mainly during horticultural activities, feasts, dances, and organized sports competitions.

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