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Social Inequality In Nuer Society

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Through understanding the institution of the feud Evans-Pritchard believed he had grasped the social structure governing Nuer relations. In a stateless society how does the Hobessian state of nature not persist? The answer, according to Evans-Pritchard, was the segmentary lineage system that provided a kind of ordered anarchy, resolved conflicts, and reproduced social order, such as in the case of blood-feuds. But given a new understanding of the gendered, material, and structural inequalities in Nuer society how should Evans-Pritchard’s analysis of the social structure change? In light of these new interpretations I suggest that the politics of Nuer society, that consists of stateless ordered anarchy, is a matter of interpretive labor carried…show more content…
The Nuer all descend from a single ancestor and can individually trace kinship lines between themselves and any other member of the society. The totality of this kinship network structures their interpersonal relationships and determines behavior, along with affinal ties that stretch outside of one’s immediate village or tribal section (Evans-Pritchard, 1951, p. 172). “The whole society is, in this sense, one great family” (Evans-Pritchard, 1951, p. 178). While conversely, kinship can be drawn in an exclusionary way when it is strictly based upon the agnate principle, patrilineal descent. Evans-Pritchard considers this difference between kinship, when defined broadly or narrowly, to be the result of different levels of abstraction (Evans-Pritchard, 1951, p. 178). This allows him to speak of a political system, based in patrilineal descent, that operates on a separate plane from that of the kinship system, which is the substance all Nuer relations. But in either case what these systems do is simply define and structure relationships, and the way individuals and groups…show more content…
92). But she reinterprets his account to show that the agnatic principle governing group identification/interaction does not operate the in universal and egalitarian mode previously implied (Gough, 1971, p. 91; 95). In particular we can see the influence of the Marxist theory of ideology within the context of Gough’s critique. The ideology of patrilineal descent is adhered to and maintained almost exclusively by the aristocrats or dominant lineage, and agnatic principle exists in spite of frequent departures from its dictates (Gough, 1971, p. 91; 95). In practice the hierarchy embedded within Nuer society rests on the difference between those who are able to establish lineal continuity and those who are not. Because of the unequal access to cattle some are able to pay full bride wealth and settle patrilocally, while others must attach themselves through matrilineal and affinal ties (McKinnon, 2000, pp. 68-69). What this all means is that aristocrats or dominant lineages are exclusively able to abide by, and reproduce agnatic principles in a consistent manor. The whole foundation of the Nuer political system only appears egalitarian when kinship through women is treated as a separate system. This lack of attention payed by Evans-Pritchard to the variation of experience amongst the Nuer is thus mirrored
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