Political Terms and Leopard Skin Chief

Topics: Political terms, Political system, Politics Pages: 3 (1159 words) Published: July 24, 2011
Discuss the institution of the feud among the Nuer as analyzed by E-P. Why did E-P argue that it played a necessary role in the segmentary political system of the tribe?

The institution of the feud among the Nuer as analyzed by Evans Pritchard, is settled by a special person known as a “leopard skin chief”. A “leopard skin chief”, has ritual powers that deal with the Nuer social life and nature, including the power to bless and curse. Only certain lineages have “leopard skin chiefs” and not all lineages use their ritual powers. His function is political affairs between political groups which are regulated through him, but he is not a political authority controlling them. For example, when a man has committed murder, he must go to a chief, who cuts his arm so that blood may flow. Until the mark of Cain has been made, the slayer can’t eat or drink. If he fears infliction of punishment, which usually always happens, he stays at the chief’s home. Within some weeks the chief will bring forth from the slayers kin that they are prepared to pay compensation to avoid a feud and he persuades the dead man’s kin to accept the payment. During that time neither family (group) can eat nor drink from the same vessels as the other. The chief collects the cattle; forty to fifty cattle. The cattle is then taken to the dead mans home, where sacrifices of penitence and cleansing take place. This is the process of settling a feud. He does not judge the case because he does not have the authority to do so. The “leopard skin chief”, forces the kin of the dead to accept with the compensation if they are not willing to he will threatened to curse them. The moral settlement on both sides helps avoid further aggression from the incident. Evans Pritchard believes that we must recognize that feuds are settled more easily in smaller groups. Such as when a man kills a near kinsmen or a close neighbor, the issue is easily settled by compensation. When a homicide occurs...
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