Gender Related Social Groups

Abelam are nominally patrilineal and patrilocal, but there is a great deal of flexibility in these arrangements. Members of patrilineal lineages (subclans) usually live in close proximity, often in the same hamlet. Clans are named exogamous totemic groups, with each clan having a bird totem (njambu). There is also a moiety system (ara) based on patrilineal descent. A woman remains a member of her clan of birth even though she moves upon marriage. This kinship idiom of social organization is essentially a social construct. Another construct is geographical-political, consisting of hamlets, ceremonial groups, and village segments that can be plotted on a map. Women normally marry close to home and in most cases remain closely affiliated with their natal clans, although they are also associated with the geographical-political units in which they reside. Accordingly, children grow up with ties to both father's and mother's groups. If resources are scarce in his father's group, a young man may choose to reside with his mother's group, or with his wife's group after marriage, becoming gradually associated with their residence group (although he remains a member of his natal clan). In practice, geographical-political residence groups are of considerably more importance in everyday work groups, politics, and ritual than are the kinship-based groups.

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