Wáiwai - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Social organization is based on complementarity between the sexes, cooperation among household heads, obligations to in-laws, alliances between siblings, and the recognition of certain men as especially influential. Corporate groups, social classes, or wealth distinctions are nonexistent.

Political Organization. The effective unit of political organization is the village; there is no overarching "tribal" or regional organization, but intervillage relations are complex. Leaders are considered primus inter pares, but the ranking of political status within the village is unusually elaborate. The village leader, kayaritomo, is someone who can mobilize a following in establishing a new village and who sponsors feasts. Under him are work leaders and their deputies and, nowadays, pastors, who together constitute a council of secular and religious leaders. The council is responsible for the smooth functioning of the village as a peaceful ( tawake ) society.

Social Control. Control is managed through persuasion, public opinion, gossip, and shame; physical force is not used. Fear of witchcraft serves as a means of control, and pastors now often warn of punishment by the Christian God. All disagreements are handled with elaborate forms of diplomacy, negotiation, and indirect measures. Serious problems that threaten village life are handled by the council of leaders, who conduct lengthy meetings with both sides to find a resolution. Some disputes lead to public discussions at village church meetings, leading to confessions or punishment by a series of restrictions on activities.

Conflict. In the past some tribes developed enmities that sometimes broke out in violence, although warfare was not a cultural focus and customs such as ceremonial wrestling and trade served as curbs. Many former enemies now live together. Overt conflict, aggression, or discord are highly censured. The Wáiwai ethos rests on the contrast between being tawake, "peaceful, sociable," and tîrwoñe, "angry, hostile." Society is considered viable only if its members control their desires, meet obligations to others, and shun confrontation. They have avoided conflict with colonists (whom they consider "angry") by residing in or retreating to distant locales.

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