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Political hierarchical processes among some highlanders of Laos

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Chapter Summary

The principal themes used by different authors to comprehend Leach’s theory of socio-political oscillation between gumlao and gumsa societies are often given as land tenure or generalized exchange. However, neither of these criteria are valid to explain the existence of two types of social organization among the Phunoy: the first one is a society organized according to the Tay Lu’s meuang system; the second one is nothing but autonomous villages with egalitarian lineages. This chapter provides a critical examination of the theory of sociopolitical oscillation in the light of the two kinds of social organisation displayed by the Phunoy. It focuses principally on the scattering of villages and the pressure on property to ask in what ways the proposals formulated among the Kachin and the Naga are not valid amongst the Phunoy, and why.

Keywords: Edmund Leach; gumlao; gumsa; Kachin; Laos; Naga; Phunoy



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