Suya - Sociopolitical Organization

The political unit was the village. Every Suya village had one (male) ritual specialist, one or more (male) faction leaders who headed kinship-based factions, and one or more individuals (male, female, or children) thought to be witches. Each of these played important roles in sociopolitical activities.

Social Organization. Suya society alternated between periods dominated by kinship relations and periods dominated by ceremonial relationships, during which the name-based moieties performed extensive rituals. There was thus a kind of "alternating current" of activities based on two contrasting principles of social organization. This was complemented by an age-grade organization that was active in both periods.

Political Organization. Through oratory and example, faction leaders were supposed to lead everyday events and activities; they had few coercive resources other than accusations of witchcraft and witch killing. Ritual specialists were supposed to override factions and speak for the entire village. Witches were said to cause all deaths and to help create ritual specialists by stealing people's spirits (and making them composers); they also served as scapegoats in factional disputes. Witches were usually identified as people who did not live up to their social obligations, were stingy, or unusually demanding.

Social Control. Social control was maintained through public oratory, shame, and occasional witch killings.

Conflict. Conflict with other groups took the form of raids led by faction leaders. Conflict within the group usually resulted in a witch being killed by one faction or by the departure of one of the factions to set up its own village. The Suya village fissioned and reunited in this fashion a number of times during the past century.

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