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One father, one blood : descent and group structure among the Melpa people

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: One father, one blood : descent and group structure among the Melpa people
Author(s): Strathern, Andrew
Date published: 1972
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Australian National University Press
The Mount Hagen people of the New Guinea Highlands have no indigenous centralised authority. They have, nonetheless, clear patterns of social order and leadership. The problem of how order is achieved in such societies has exercised anthropologists since the 1940s. It is also one of considerable relevance to New Guinea as it is emerging today. This study builds its case not only on the descent characteristics which have been stressed in African models of uncentralised societies but also on the activities of the {u2018}big-men{u2019} and the specific ideologies of the Hageners. It analyses the symbols they employ to describe their formal groups and concludes that, so far as they have a patrilineal ideology, it asserts group identity and solidarity rather than prescribing recruitment of followers. The work also examines the role of the big-men in promulgating these assertions and equally in recruiting non-patrilineal followers or even ejecting patrilineal ones who come into conflict with group interests. For those interested in social control in uncentralised societies, Melanesian ethnography, or kinship, this book will provide a provocative analysis of descent and group structure in a New Guinea Highlands people and will serve as a pointer to further research in social change in the Highlands.


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