Kapauku Papuans and Their Law

Kapauku Papuans and Their Law

Kapauku Papuans and Their Law

Kapauku Papuans and Their Law

Excerpt

Law is one of the traditional categories of Western culture which generally has not been discussed in the anthropological studies of other people. This monograph presents an analysis of the structure and function of law in a Kapauku Papuan confederacy of the interior of Netherlands New Guinea, an area which is relatively unaffected by the legal ideas of Western civilization. The analysis of law is based on an investigation of the confederacy as a whole as well as an inquiry into the legal systems of all of the confederacy's subgroups, such as lineage, sublineage, village, household, and family.The purpose of the monograph is to demonstrate with the help of the Papuan data the effectiveness of a theory of law formulated on the basis of a comparative study of thirty-two cultures and a survey of an additional sixty-three. The cultures in the sample range from very simple ones as those of the Bushmen and the Yaghan to the complex cultures of the Inca and the Chinese.1The intensively studied cultures have the following geographical distribution: Africa 6, Asia 4, Europe 3, North America 5, South America 5, Oceania 9. The theory analyzes phenomena which traditionally have been regarded as law (see for definition Webster New International Dictionary: Neilson and others, 1940: 1401) and abstracts the essential common features of these. Thus it isolates four attributes which help to differentiate law from other social phenomena such as political decisions, purely religious taboos, and customs in general. After thus analyzing the structure of law, the primary interest is directed toward the dynamic aspect of law and its relation both to the smaller group in which it is upheld and to the larger society as a whole. Through this approach, the writer has arrived at a theory of the relativity of law and custom.To achieve the above objective, the writer presents first a general ethnographic picture of a Papuan culture. Whereas the first part of the monograph concentrates upon the individual and his conception f the universe, the second deals with Kapauku society and its subgroups. Thus the discussion of law is properly related to the legally relevant aspects of religion, politics, economy, and customs in general both of then society as whole and its subgroups. In testing the theory of law, special attention is given to the analysis of authority and leadership, and to the decisions of specific disputes and the motivations underlying them, 176 of which decisions are described in the third part of the monograph. Against this material the theory is tested in the fourth, or last, part.The research. The Kapauku Papuans of the interior of the Netherlands New Guinea appear to comprise one of the most suitable societies in which the research could have been conducted for the following reasons:

The society is one which has not yet been affected by Western ideas of law.

A virtual absence of chieftainship as well as of formalized legal procedures, and . . .

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