The Dynamics of Clanship among the Tallensi, Being the First Part of an Analysis of the Social Structure of a Trans-Volta Tribe

By Meyer Fortes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
THE LINEAGE IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

General Features

A CENTRAL factor in the continuity and stability of a Tale settlement is the economic organization; but the persistent morphological framework, the factor that gives its peculiar stamp to the form of a Tale community, is its lineage skeleton. The critical feature is the congruence of local aggregation and continuity with lineage aggregation and continuity.

To observe the operation of the lineage principle in the structure of a Tale settlement, we must isolate for consideration its male population.

pu meet yiri—a woman does not build a house', say the natives, in words reminiscent of the Roman formula, mulier finis familiae est. That is to say, a lineage is not perpetuated by its women members, but only by its male members. We have previously studied the Tale lineage system in its macroscopic structure, from the outside, as it were. We proceed, now, to study it from within.

We shall keep Tongo as our model. Tongo is the tεη of the senior of the four branches of the clan of Mosuor biis, each of which has the form of a maximal lineage though it is in reality only a major segment of a maximal lineage. In addition, there are at Tongo several accessory lineages linked to the authentic line of Mosuor biis by some genealogical fiction or other. If allowance is made for the special linkage of these accessory lineages to the authentic line of Mosuor biis, we can place all the men of Tongo on a single, patrilineal, chart. All their lines of ascent converge in Mosuor. They all belong to the same set of lineages, graded in segments of increasing span and rising order of segmentation and contained within the lineage limits fixed by their unilineal ancestry.

Births and deaths among its members continually change the composition of the sub-clan. Deaths of male members often cause further segmentation in the lineages of smallest span. They do not affect the lineage equilibrium of the sub-clan as a whole, for this is a function of the relations between the segments of highest order. The structural relations of all segments of an order higher than the minimal segments are finally fixed. If we take any one of these supra-minimal segments by itself, its place in the whole system can be altered only by the extinction of a co‐ ordinate segment of a lineage of greater span of which it forms a part. Hence the point of time chosen for an analysis of the system is immaterial.


Analysis of a Lineage from Within

Since all the men of Tongo can be included in a single genealogical tree, it is immaterial whom we choose as the starting-point for our

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