The difficult issue of conflict resolution between

This preview shows page 271 - 273 out of 457 pages.

the difficult issue of conflict resolution between strangers becomes increas- ingly acute in larger groups. A fact further diffusing potential problems of conflict resolution in tribes is that almost everyone is related to everyone else, by blood or marriage or both. Those ties of relationships binding all tribal members make police, laws, and other conflict-resolving institutions of larger societies unnecessary, since any two villagers getting into an argu- ment will share many kin, who apply pressure on them to keep it from becoming violent. In traditional New Guinea society, if a New Guinean happened to encounter an unfamiliar New Guinean while both were away from their respective villages, the two engaged in a long discussion of their
Image of page 271
272, G U N S , G E R M S , AND STEEL relatives, in an attempt to establish some relationship and hence some rea- son why the two should not attempt to kill each other. Despite all of these differences between bands and tribes, many similari- ties remain. Tribes still have an informal, "egalitarian" system of govern- ment. Information and decision making are both communal. In the New Guinea highlands, I have watched village meetings where all adults in the village were present, sitting on the ground, and individuals made speeches, without any appearance of one person's "chairing" the discussion. Many highland villages do have someone known as the "big-man," the most influential man of the village. But that position is not a formal office to be filled and carries only limited power. The big-man has no independent decision-making authority, knows no diplomatic secrets, and can do no more than attempt to sway communal decisions. Big-men achieve that sta- tus by their own attributes; the position is not inherited. Tribes also share with bands an "egalitarian" social system, without ranked lineages or classes. Not only is status not inherited; no member of a traditional tribe or band can become disproportionately wealthy by his or her own efforts, because each individual has debts and obligations to many others. It is therefore impossible for an outsider to guess, from appearances, which of all the adult men in a village is the big-man: he lives in the same type of hut, wears the same clothes or ornaments, or is as naked, as everyone else. Like bands, tribes lack a bureaucracy, police force, and taxes. Their economy is based on reciprocal exchanges between individuals or families, rather than on a redistribution of tribute paid to some central authority. Economic specialization is slight: full-time crafts specialists are lacking, and every able-bodied adult (including the big-man) participates in grow- ing, gathering, or hunting food. I recall one occasion when I was walking past a garden in the Solomon Islands, saw a man digging and waving at me in the distance, and realized to my astonishment that it was a friend of mine named Faletau. He was the most famous wood carver of the Solo- mons, an artist of great originality—but that did not free him of the neces- sity to grow his own sweet potatoes. Since tribes thus lack economic
Image of page 272

Want to read all 457 pages?

Image of page 273

Want to read all 457 pages?

You've reached the end of your free preview.

Want to read all 457 pages?

  • Spring '13
  • Gertler
  • Philosophy, Native Americans in the United States, New Guinea, New Guineans, Yali

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

Get FREE access by uploading your study materials

Upload your study materials now and get free access to over 25 million documents.

Upload now for FREE access Or pay now for instant access
Christopher Reinemann
"Before using Course Hero my grade was at 78%. By the end of the semester my grade was at 90%. I could not have done it without all the class material I found."
— Christopher R., University of Rhode Island '15, Course Hero Intern

Ask a question for free

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern