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AN101 Chapter Notes -Segmentary Lineage, Slavey, Indigenous Peoples Of The Americas

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Tristan Long

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Week 10
Cultural Anthropology: Chapter Eleven: Political Organization and the Maintenance of Order
Conformity and Culture:
What is Political Organization?
o Political Organization: refers to the means a culture uses to maintain order internally and manage
its affairs with other cultures externally
o Organization may be relatively centralized and informal, as in bands and tribes or centralized and
formal as in chiefdoms and states
How is Order Maintained within a culture?
o Social controls may be internalized (built into individuals) or externalized through sanctions
o Built-in controls rely on deterrent such as personal shame and fear of supernatural punishment
o Positive sanctions encouraged approved behavior, negative sanctions discourage disapproved
o Negative sanctions formalized and enforced by authorized political body = laws
o But cultures don’t just maintain order through only law
How is Order Maintained between cultures?
o Just as the threatened or actual use of force can maintain order within a culture, it also may
manage affairs among bands, lineages, clans or other autonomous political units
o Not all cultures rely on force because some do not practice warfare
o Such Cultures have views of themselves and their place in the world quite different from those
characteristic of centrally organized states
How do political systems obtain people’s allegiance?
o Political system cannot function without loyalty of those it governs
o To a greater or lesser extent, political organizations use religion to legitimize their power
o In centralized systems, people give loyalty and cooperation because everyone participates in
making decision
o Centralized systems rely on force and coercion although these may lessen system’s effectiveness
o Legitimacy achieved through consent is the most cost-effective form of rule
o ―I am the state‖ – statement that Louis XIV declared absolute rule over France becoming not just
kind but its law maker, its court, its judge, its jailer and executioner, and had the seat of all
political power in France
o Louis XIV took great responsibility and performed each of these functions, did the work of
thousands of people
o As a political organization, 17th century French state was not much different from those that exist
in modern times
o All large states require elaborate centralized structure with hierarchies of executives, legislators
and judges who initiate, pass and enforce laws that affect large numbers of people
o Complex centralized political structures are a product of mainly the 17th and 18th centuries
o In 1500 Europe was home to around 500 political entities
o By 1900, there were about 30 political entities
o Map of world changed again dramatically between 1990 and 2010
o Outside the developed world, some cultural groups depend on far less formal organization
o In cultures such as HADZABE, flexible and informal kinship systems prevail with leader who
lack coercive power

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o MBUTI : problems such as homicide and theft are perceived as serious family quarrels rather
than as affairs affecting the entire community
o Between these two polarities of political organization lies a variety, including cultures with
chiefs, big men, charismatic leaders, and segmented tribes with multi centric authority systems
o Political Organization: refers to the way power is distributed and embedded in a cultural group
whether it involves organizing a net hunt of passing legislation, linked to the way power is used
to coordinate and regulate behavior so that order is maintained
- is an important component of human behavior but we should restrict temptation to restrict our
examination to military or police structures this is neither the only aspect of political
organization nor even its most important one
- Some form of political organization exists in all human groups
Kinds of Political Systems
Political System: is the means a human group uses to maintain social order and reduce social disorder
- It assumes a variety of forms among the peoples of the world but scholars simplified the complex
subject by identifying four basic kinds of political systems: 1.uncentralized bands and tribes,
centralized chiefdoms and states
-each of these systems designed to meet needs of population living within specific setting
Centralized Political Systems
o In many non-western cultural groups, marriage and kinship form the principle means of social
o The economies of these groups are of subsistence type with small populations
o Leaders do not have the power to force compliance with the society’s customs or laws but if
individual members do not conform, they become the target of scorn and gossip or even be
o Important decisions are made in democratic manner by consensus of adults including women as
well as men; dissenting members may decide to act with the majority or they may choose to adopt
some other course of actions if willing to risk social consequences
o This form of political organization provides flexibility which is an adaptive advantage
Band Organization (Uncentralized)
o Band: a small group of politically independent through related families and is the least complex
form of political organization
o Bands found among foragers, hunters and other nomadic groups
o Organize themselves into politically autonomous extended-family groups
o Will camp together, although they often split into smaller groups for periods to forage for food or
visit other relatives
o Bands are kin groups, composed of men and or women who are related (or are assumed to be) as
well as their spouses and unmarried children
o Bands can be characterized as associations of related families who occupy a common territory
and who live there together for as long as environmental and subsistence circumstances are
o Band is the oldest form of political organization since all humans once were hunters and gatherers
o Egalitarian groups where everyone is related and where almost everyone values getting along, the
potential for conflict to develop is reduced
o Many disputes are settled informally trough gossip, ridicule, direct negotiation, or mediation for
example, among most ABORIGINAL PEOPLES of Canada
o For conflict resolution, emphasis placed on community healing rather than punishment
o When all else fails, unhappy individuals have the option of joining another band where they have

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o Decision affecting a band are made with participation of all adult members with emphasis on
consensus instead of majority
o Consensus: a general agreement among adult members of a group
o Leadership is based on ability, and leaders maintain their position only as long as they retain the
community’s confidence
o They have neither a guaranteed hold on their position nor the power to force people to abide by
their decisions
o A leader who exceeds what people are willing to accept quickly loses followers
o Example of informal band leadership: JU/’HOANSI of KALAHARI DESERT: each band is
composed of a group of families who live together, linked through kinship to one another and to
the leader, who is usually male but sometimes female
o Each band has rights to the territory it occupies and to the resources within it, but two or more
bands’ territories may overlap
o The leader called the Kxoe or the ―owner‖ is the focal point for the band’s theoretical ownership
of the territory
o Leader male or female symbolically personifies the rights of band members to ownership
o Leader is responsible for planning when and where the group will move when local good
resources no longer adequate
o When move begins his or her position is symbolically at the head of the line
o He or she chooses the site for a new settlement and has the first choice of a sport for this or her
own fire
o Leader may also play a role in organizing hunting parties, trading expeditions and gift-giving and
marriage arrangements
o Individual families have a great deal of autonomy in decision making
o Leader is not a judge and does not punish other band members
o Wrongdoers are judged and regulated by public opinion, which is usually expressed by gossip
among band members
o An important technique for resolving disputes or avoiding them in the first place is mobility
o Those who are unable to get along with others of their group simply ―vote with their feet‖ and
move to another group where kinship ties give them entry rights
OF NORTHERN AMERICA: traditionally, leaders were chosen from most successful hunters
while senior women controlled kinship (marriage and group composition0
o Elders held important positions in the band: they chose leaders and served and served as
teachers,, historians, and political advisers
o Individuals with special powers provided healing and ritual services and maintained social control
over the group
o The band members settled their own disputes; for most serious offences, the culprit might be
banished from the band
o As with JU’HOANSI: decision making based on consensus and anyone unhappy with decision
o Following 1899 and 1921 treaties, chiefs and band councils were established although not to
everyone’s satisfaction
o These early slavey chiefs were chosen among the traditional leaders and councilors were leaders
of local bands
o More recently, leaders have been elected by majority which is at odds with the principles of
slavey political and social organization
o in the 1960s, when their territories were threatened by megaprojects such as Mackenzie Valley
pipeline, slaveys allied themselves with other dene peoples to form the dene nation
o Dene nation sough political autonomy and greater control over their traditional lands
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