Andamanese - Sociopolitical Organization

Social and Political Organization. Traditionally speakers of a dialect resided as an independent and autonomous group in a specific part of the islands. Each local group was further divided up, especially in the Northern and the Middle Andamans, into twenty to fifty people who, depending on the season, lived either at the coast or in the forest. Marriage alliances and adoptions between coastal and forest dwellers controlled conflict; those social controls were supplemented by the dictates of the elders.

Social Control. The Andamanese value system is the basic means for maintaining social control. Direct confrontation is avoided, and "going away"—that is, leaving the source and scene of conflict for a short time—is encouraged. Usually a person expresses resentment by breaking or destroying some piece of property at the campsite and then staying in the forest for a few days. While the offended person is gone, other campmates fix up the destroyed property and wait for that person, who is taken back without recriminations.

Conflict. Occasionally neighboring groups would have a conflict of interests; however, hostility never escalated beyond the level of avoidance. When problems between groups would arise, women, through informal channels of negotiation, were instrumental in the resolution of tension. Resolution was usually marked by a feast in which the groups in conflict would participate. Between neighboring groups with different identities that were marked by different spoken dialects, the peacemaking ceremony consisted of a sequence of shared feasts held over a period of time. The imperial administrators of the islands acknowledged the position of influence held by some of the elders, and thus titles such as raja were introduced and functionary chiefs created. The position of raja was always held by an elder who could speak the administration's language of Hindustani.

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