Mundurucu - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The Mundurucu are nominally patrilineal, but live uxorilocally. Patrilineality describes the Mundurucu only to the extent that a Mundurucu clan name, moiety, and some shamanistic knowledge are passed from father to child.

Political Organization. Mundurucu villages are autonomous units. Each village has a headman, most often the most influential of the men who married into the village. Because the headman's sons and their wives usually live virilocally, the headman has a group of sons and sons-in-law to draw upon for support. If a shaman lives in the village, all accord him respect, but his powers are in the spirit world. Some villages have "captains" appointed by a riverboat trader or another outsider to facilitate trade. None of these three men has any authority over others.

Social Control. Mundurucu villagers are expected to cooperate with one another. Strong sanctions encourage this cooperation and discourage shirking work at hand. A woman who does not work or who flouts male authority may face the threat of gang rape by male villagers who disapprove. No case of this occurred during fieldwork conducted in 1979-1980, and it may be a completely forgotten sanction. If one or several people become seriously ill in the village, an uncooperative male may be suspected of sorcery. Two Mundurucu men living in the reservation were murdered for this reason during the period 1979-1981.

Conflict. Except for these sanctions, the Mundurucu rarely resort to violence, and fighting meets with community disapproval.


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