morton fried - the notion of tribe

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The Notion of Tribe

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The Master said, "What is necessary is to rectify names.... If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success." Confucian Analects, Bk. XIII, Ch. Ill: 2 and 5. (Translation of James Legge.)

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The Notion of Tribe

Morton H. Fried Columbia University

Cummings Publishing Company Menlo Park, California Reading, Massachusetts London Amsterdam Don Mills, Ontario Sydney

Preface

4This book is in the Cummings Modular Program in Anthropology The Notion of Tribe assaults the generally held concept of "tribe" by attacking the notion of highly discrete political units in pre-state society. Although we are accustomed to think about the most ancient forms of human society in terms of tribes, firmly defined and bounded units of this sort actually grew out of the manipulation of relatively Editorial Board unstructured populations by more complexly organized societies. The invention of the state, a tight, class-structured political and economic PAUL T. BAKER organization, began a process whereby vaguely defined and grossly The Pennsylvania State University overlapping populations were provided with the minimal organization JOSEPH B. CASAGRANDE required for their manipulation, even though they had little or no University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign internal organization of their own other than that based on conceptions KWANG-CHIH CHANG of kinship. The resultant form was that of the tribe. Yale University WARD H. GOODENOUGH This book presents comparative ethnological evidence to show that University of Pennsylvania EUGENE A. tribes, as conventionally conceived, are not closely bounded HAMMEL University of California, Berkeley populations in either territorial or demographic senses. They are not economically and politically integrated and display political Copyright 1975 by Cummings Publishing Company, Inc. Philippines organization under hierarchial leaders only as a result of contact with copyright 1975. already existing states, although such contact may be quite indirect. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored They are not either war or peace groups and rarely if ever show in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, congruence with language communities or with religious communities. electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without theprior written permission of the publisher. Printed in the United States of America. Published simultaneously in Canada. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 75-5309 ISBN 0-8465-1548-2 ABCDEFGHIJKLAL-798765 Cummings Publishing Company, Inc. 2727 Sand Hill Road Menlo Park, California 94025

Nothing is more quixotic than to attempt to change the meaning of a word firmly rooted in the lexicon. The intention of this assault is to sensitize the reader to a battery of preconceptions about the nature of pre-state society.

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Contents

AcknowledgmentsEven a little book like this one is the result of myriad stimulations and supports from all too onymous hordes. Nevertheless, I owe a special debt to William S. Willis, Jr., friend, anthropologist, and critic, who once again has supplied both support and wisdom. William Sturtevant set me in the direction of Kroeber's work, and Lowell John Bean helped with specific references. Lillian Lent surmounted great odds in preparing the manuscript from often untidy copy. Gene Hammel said some very nice things and asked some hard questions. Ward Goodenough and Joseph Casagrande were kind with editorial help. Milton Hess, James L. Nolan, and Martin Weiss made bibliographic suggestions. These people are responsible for some of the

good things that may be found here, but whatever is found lacking is the author's fault.

Chapter1 Chapter Chapter Chapter4 Chapter Chapter6 Chapter Chapter Chapter

Do Tribes Exist?........................................... 2 3 5 7 8 9

1

Chapter10 Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter

Tribes as Cultural Units............................. 85 11 12 13 14 The Tribe in Political Evolution ... 88 The Tribe as a Secondary Phenomenon..................................99 Tribe and Nation...................................106 The Notion of Tribe...............................112

Tribes as Breeding Populations ... 11 Tribes as Linguistic Groupings ... . 26 Tribes as Economic Systems .... 39 The Tribe as a Political Group ... 60 The Tribe as a War/Peace Unit . . . 66 Tribes as Ideological Groups .... 73

Tribes as Named Groups............................. 31 The Notion of "Tribelet"............................. 56

Notes.................................................................................115 References........................................................................119 Index.................................................................................131

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Chapter 1 Do Tribes Exist?

About the Author

Morton H. Fried received his B.S. from City College of New York and his Ph.D. from Columbia University,

where he is currently Professor of Anthropology. He has done field work in China, Guyana, Taiwan, and various places in the Caribbean. Dr. Fried has served in several professional societies, has been a consultant to the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Endowmentfor the Humanities, has been a director of the Social Science Research Council, and is the author of severalworks, including The Evolution of

Political Society.

Do tribes exist? Or are they chimeras, imaginary compounds of various and, at times, incongruous parts, societal illusions fabricated for diverse reasons but, once created, endowed with such solid reality as to have profound effect on the lives of millions of people? The question is practical, because it does have consequences in daily life, and theoretical, because the notion of tribe has played a vital role in various social sciences, perhaps most conspicuously in anthropology. There are many words whose meanings are taken for granted but cannot withstand close scrutiny without fragmenting into contradictory packets of significance or dissolving in vagueness. The word "tribe" is certainly among these, subject particularly to the latter consequence. For that reason, many anthropologists have attempted to avoid the word, or deliberately isolate it in inverted commas. Part of the trouble is that the word "tribe" is rooted in the general lexicon, as well as deeply entrenched in the technical vocabulary of anthropology and other social sciences. This is simply one specific instance of a widely spread malady; it is intensified by the fact that tribe is hardly more rigorously defined in anthropological applications than in popular usage. Attempts to reform linguistic modes can be virtuous, but quixotic. I hope the reader will discover more motive behind this reconsideration of the concept of tribe than the slim chance of decisively affecting

Do Tribes Exist? 3 2 The Notion of Tribe Economic exchanges are qualified on the same basis, as are usage. As the argument proceeds, it may be seen that critical all relations: examination of this concept offers a vehicle for the Political behavior is similarly qualified. Weapons of discussion of a variety of problems of both practical and dispute commonly have a segmentary calculus, nicely academic significance, ranging from the attempt to understand graded in deadliness in a progression with sectoral the evolution of human society to the attempt to deal with distance. Matters should not go beyond heated words contemporary problems of intersocietal and intercultural in family arguments, and though fists may fly in conflict on a variety of levels, from local communities to village brawls and spears be raised in intervillage national states. feuds, the fatal poisoned arrow is reserved for tribal enemies . . . a contrast between tribal and civilized Let me begin, deviously, with a line familiar to generations moral orders is suggestedbetween relative and of school children: "Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe situational norms as opposed to universal imperatives. increase!)." The poem goes on to identify its central (Sahlins, 1968, p. 19) character as both tribesman and cosmopolite. There is a nice contradiction: tribesman and cosmopolite; the former usually As Sahlins and many others have noted, the placing of connoting the most narrow and local focus of knowledge and loyalty to an immediate community of kin and neighbors is associations, the latter someone who has worldwide rather not exclusively characteristic of primitive or simple than provincial interests and loyalties. Leigh Hunt, the social structures. Though it is true that the word "tribe" poet who created Abou Ben Adhem, was quite specific about and its derivatives, such as "tribal," or "tribalism," are this, portraying Abou as one who placed before everything frequently reserved for social orders regarded as simple or else his love for all his fellow men. Hunt's use of the word primitive, thereby serving at least potentially as "tribe" was inspired. It starts the poem sonorously and pejoratives, there are other words with overlapping swiftly conjures up a remarkably vivid nineteenth century connotations capable of projecting the same content. The vision of a desert people. But Hunt skillfully manipulates word "clannish" is formally enrolled in the dictionary in the ambiguities of "tribe" and the reader realizes that just this sense. We are familiar, of course, with the Abou1s tribe could be the local people into which he was close association of the concept of clan with the concept born, or all of th

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