Sora - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. A village tends to contain several lineages, so that marriage may be inside or outside the village. A lineage is fixed in space by the sites of its cremation ground and memorial stones. The lineage affiliation of women remains ambiguous far into their married lives. Even after death, they are given a similar funeral by both their husband's and their father's lineage, and questions of inheritance may hinge on which group of ancestors the dead woman now resides with in the Underworld.

Political Organization. The British introduced a system of hereditary village heads (gomang) and other office holders. Each of these offices was assigned to a different lineage, and between them they formed the village council ( bisara). Since Independence, this has been replaced by an elected panchayat. This is often dominated by representatives of the local trading castes. The hill Sora have become fully aware of Indian national party politics only during the 1980s. Lacking literacy and political power, they have been largely locked into old patterns of exploitation and intimidation. Younger Sora are learning to read and write their own language. They are also learning to speak Oriya or Telugu and so to dispense with Pano interpreters in their dealings with the government.

Social Control. Public opinion and gossip are important. Persons who are too solitary, greedy, or eccentric may be suspected of sorcery. Social embarrassment sometimes leads to suicide. Police and lawyers are used as weapons by factions who start cases against each other. Police proceedings are referred to by the same words as a sorcery attack. The principles of law and morality are upheld by the dead as they discuss the affairs of the living.

Conflict. The format of debate is pervasive in the old Village council and the new panchayat. Both sides may end up shouting their cases, sometimes in a simultaneous monologue. This format is carried over into dialogues with the dead, where both sides argue their opposed cases about family relations, inheritance, and other contentious issues. Physical violence, or its threat, is never far below the surface, especially in conflicts involving the interests of wealthy Soras or the trading castes.

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