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ANTB19H3 Study Guide - Final Guide: Homicide, Group Cohesiveness, Structural Functionalism


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTB19H3
Professor
Donna Young
Study Guide
Final

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Before the study of the Neur by Evans-Pritchard, the people were thought to
be a people with no social order and that existed among complete chaos; however,
Evans-Pritchard understood the system that the Neur functioned within and saw the
order hidden in the chaos. The theory that Evans-Pritchard used to describe the
political life of the Nuer is known as structural functionalism and it is used to
illustrate the interconnectedness between various institutions that work together in
the society. These institutions help hold the society together and maintain, in a
sense, an equilibrium that allows for the reproduction of cultural patterns. One of
these key institutions in the Nuer was believed by Evans-Pritchard to be feud. What
he defined as a feud was different from a war. A feud focuses more on the tribal and
local politics; whereas, a war is much larger and involves a dispute between tribes
or an outsider and a tribe. This essay will demonstrate how feud is a political
institution for the Neur, as seen through its role in mediating conflict, representing
the populous, and maintaining group cohesiveness.
One of the main functions of a political institution is to mediate conflict as
necessary. Just as in other political institutions, there is a clear and orderly manner
to approach feuds in The Neur. For example, to settle a dispute about a stolen cow,
the disputant must approach the Leopard Skin Chief and request his presence when
he goes to ask for the return of the cow. The chief and a group of elders first go alone
to discuss the matter and return for a second time with the disputant so both
members of the feud are present. Everybody is given the opportunity to express his
or her opinions, oaths for truthfulness are taken if necessary, and the elders and
chief separate to decide upon a verdict. Once a verdict has been accepted by both
disputants and there is complete unanimity, the losing side must acknowledge the
justice of the other side’s case and the “case” is closed. As seen through this example,
violence is neither total nor constant. And despite the absence of an authoritative
control, there are clearly mechanisms to resolve conflict, such as: bloodwealth,
compensation, figures to mediate (LPC & elders), and beliefs. In addition, it is
ensured that there is no conflict of interest for the mediator of the conflict, the
Leopard Skin Chief. This is guaranteed because he has no position in the system of
dominant lineages. He can be seen as a stranger living on land that he does not
hereditarily belong to. His ability to remain impartial when negotiating these feuds
illustrates that he is the most ideal to play the role of the mediator. Finally, like other
political institutions, there are conventional compensation for issues such as damage,
adultery, and loss of limbs. In the case where a man commits adultery, the compensation
is five cows and an ox. As illustrated in the above examples, feud aids in mediating
conflicts, as seen through its clearly defined process of reconciliation, the existence of
ideal mediators, and knowledge of conventional compensations. The mediation of
conflict, a key function of all political institutions, is clearly demonstrated in the above
features discussed above of the feud.
Political institutions must also represent the populous and allow for everyone’s
voice to be heard. Feuds provide the perfect situation for individuals to be represented
fairly and to also have the right to speak their minds. Feuds must be brought to the
attention of the chief, the chief does not intervene unless the disputants approach him and
require his aid. When the disputants do contact the chief to help in the reconciliation of a
feud, they are asking the chief to represent them and their case. It is the duty of the chief
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