Lecture: Kinship/ Segmentary Lineage System.
Again, a clan is the largest group of agnates who trace their descent from a common
ancestor, and between whom marriage is forbidden.
-It has a highly segmented genealogical structure
An entire kinship system traces all kin relationships through both parents (agnates
cognates, affines, etc). The Nuer call these relationships Mar.
-The lineage system, or patrilineage, is concerned with agnatic kin.
We ended last week’s lecture by saying that clans remain constant, but that lineages are
E-P page 198: Lineage values are thus essentially relative like tribal values, and we
suggest later that the processes of lineage segmentation and political segmentation are to
some extent co-ordinate.
That is, on the ground, in the real world, it is hard to tell them apart, because they
involve the same players, and because the players may explain their actions in either/ or
kinship or political terms. But they describe different sociological structures. In other
words, the distinction is one the anthropologist makes in order to describe the social
structures of the Nuer, to describe how the different structures of a society are inter-
related and help to reproduce the society over time. This is why we call E-P a structural-
functionalist. In this book he describes the ways in which kinship and political structures
work together to create Nuer society. (Elsewhere, he also talks about Nuer religion as
another structure that contributes to Nuer society). Coordinate Structures: Kinship and Politics
(10 to 12 generations of Dominant Clan/ Diel) (Territory)
-Lineages (Buth) -Sections
(4 to 6 generations)
Maximum Primary –Secondary-Tertiary
Lineages have names, reciprocal relations, and ritual symbols.
Lineage segmentation: “Me against my brother, my brother and I against the
Political Segmentation: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”
Nuer lineages are not corporate, localized communities, although they are
frequently associated with territorial groups (dominant clans). But through fission,
lineage groups may go to live in other territories, and it is where one resides that
determines one’s political affiliation, or tribal allegiance. (Home is where the
It is only in reference to rules of exogamy, certain ritual activities, and to a very
limited extent responsibility for homicide that one needs to regard lineages as
completely autonomous groups.
In social life (quotidian life) it is community and tribe that is important.
Recall the feud we enacted in class:
-Feuds and quarrels between lineages chiefly lead to their dispersal
-This leads to migration, and new political alliances
-The ecology is of primary importance. Remember, home is where
the cattle are, and not the other way around!
Read page 110 over and ove