INTRODUCTION TO CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY- Unit 3, Question (correct) #1 – Essay Example

Question Describe the social structure of chiefdom. What were the specific social rankings and how were these determined? Anthropologists have made various attempts to define what chiefdom means and its structural organization. Complex and varied definitions have been given in relation to the subject. Chiefdom is a political economy mandated to organize the various regional populations through a hierarchy of leaders or chiefs (Scupin, 1998). Chiefdoms consist of a socio-cultural system which is mainly centralized for the purpose of decision making.
The social structure of chiefdom consists of the clans, lineages and other decent groups as argued by Scupin (1998). The families in chiefdoms are mainly extended families, with many generations. Post marriage is allowed to take place within the chiefdoms. Age is considered important when it comes to social ranking as senior males are much privileged and have more power, and rank than the junior counterparts. Marriage also formed a basic social structure of chiefdom in which higher ranking males are to marry lower ranking females (Scupin, 1998). Chiefdoms are mainly characterized by polygamous marriage, where chiefs are allowed to marry more than one wife. Scupin also observes that chiefdoms are mainly gender based and are dominated by the males in the form of gerontocracy. Within the chiefdom society female are not expected to play an active role in the social organization of the chiefdoms except for those on higher strata. Social injustices such as slavery also characterized the chiefdoms, since it engages mainly in warfare. The head of the chiefdoms in most cases subjects Captives of war to hard labor. Art and music is also a basic social tool for the chiefdoms (Scupin, 1998). Music especially work-songs, dirges and recreational songs formed part of the chiefdom societies. In some cases the formal songs were sung to honor the chiefs and deities. Shamanism was also formed part of many chiefdom social structure as it is believed to have the ability to send disease to the chiefs adversaries and cure as well as give spiritual powers to the chief’s henchmen (Scupin, 1998).
Social ranking is a basic feature of a chiefdom society which is done in line with the laid down rules called sumptuary rules (Scupin, 1998). These rules are meant to govern the social interaction between those on the higher and lower ranks in the society. It is also used to differentiate between those people in the society with higher status from the rest of the society. Specific social ranking are seen in times of marriage, within the chiefdom society. It is therefore important to rank the males and the females in order to determine how marriage was to occur. This is because chiefdoms expect males of the higher ranks to marry female of lower rank. Social ranking is also done to help separate the chiefdoms. Those of higher status are separated from the lowly since it was considered a taboo for the latter to eat or touch people of higher ranking within the chiefdom (Scupin, 1998).
Scupin R. (1998). Cultural Anthropology: A Global Perspective. New Jersey: Linderwood
University: Nancy Roberts Publishers.