Warlpiri - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Minor dialect variations among northern, southern, and eastern Warlpiri reflect loose regional kin networks sometimes called "communities" in the scholarly literature, but these networks have no corporate political or territorial significance. Today as in the past, life is based on an economy of knowledge that confers respect and authority on middle-aged and older men and women.

Political Organization. There are no institutionalized leadership roles or communitywide political structures, but senior members of a patriline have considerable authority in religious affairs. Today there are also town council chairmen and councillors who control large sums of money and resources, which can make them quite influential—but usually only temporarily, as they eventually succumb to pervasive egalitarian pressures.

Social Control. Control was, and is, exercised largely informally and on the basis of public opinion, fear of sorcery, or supernatural sanctions for the breach of religious taboos. Older siblings exercise limited authority over their younger siblings. In the contemporary context the lack of broad-based community political structures poses problems in dealing with issues such as alcohol and vandalism, now usually handled by non-Aboriginal police.

Conflict. Most conflict in the past arose out of disputes concerning deaths (almost all of which were related to sorcery) , women, or perceived breaches of ritual rights. Conflict today is aggravated by the availability of alcohol, which can make people more combative and reduce the effectiveness of traditional dispute-settling procedures, which included formalized dueling and dispute-settling ceremonies. In the past, deaths were sometimes avenged by small parties of closely related kin pursuing the killer.

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