Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Leach’s Critique of Structural Functionalism

Similar presentations

Presentation on theme: "Leach’s Critique of Structural Functionalism"— Presentation transcript:

1 Leach’s Critique of Structural Functionalism

2 Contradictions in the Ideal Systems
2. The Critique of Social Change Kachin Hill area characterized not by equilibrium, but by an ‘unstable equilibirum’ in continual oscillation: Between Gumsa and Gumlao, between social hierarchies and radical egalitarianism. I. Gumlao: all are of the same status, no village or domain chiefs, social and linguistic factionalism. II. Gumsa: ideal model is a feudal state, ranked hierarchy in status and politics. Languages ranked in a status hierarchy, with Jinghpaw being the language of the aristocracy. Both Gumlao and Gumsa communities are unstable, because they contain elements in tension with each other, I.e. internal contradictions

3 The Gumsa and Gumlao Models:
GUMSA MODEL: Descent: Patrilineal lineages and clans, ultimogeniture (youngest son inherits), each lineage headed by an elder. Allliance: Matrilateral cross-cousin marriage is the ideal. Clans are ideal exogamous, but almost always so at the level of the lineage. Leads to the mayu-dama system in terms of understanding hierarchy: I. Mayu: lineages from which ego’s lineage have taken brides. II. Dama: lineages in which women from ego’s lineage have recently married. III. Lawu-lahta: recognized as descent relatives, but distant relationships. Neither mayu nor dama. IV. Closely related lineages whom one cannot marry into.

4 Contradictions of the Gumsa Model
Mayu/dama relationship is hierarchical. If a son-in-law cannot give gifts as bride-price, he must work for his father-in-law. Tendency is for the chief of the village to try to act like a Shan prince (saohpa) and treat the dama relationships as if they were feudal serfs. At a certain point the dama lineages rebel, instituting a gumlao ‘democracy’

5 Contradictions in the Gumlao Model
In principle, all lineages are equal and there should be no distinction between wife givers and wife receivers. However, the terminology and language of mayu and dama is retained. Over several generations, the mayu lineages try to reassert their authority by requiring high bride price and the village begins to resemble a gumsa autocracy.

6 A Criticism of the Concept of ‘Tribe’ as a Colonial Construct
Tribe was identified in functionalism by: I. Language: but the Kachin Hills area does not fit this model. There are fifteen distinct languages. Language and dialect are related to social status. 2. Territory: Kachin and Shan are often mixed up together, fluid boundaries. Many examples of individual kachins who became Shan and vice-versa 3. Political/Social Organization: Within the Kachin Hill Area, there are two distinct ‘models’ of society: Hence, none of the objective definitions of tribe could be applied to the Kachin Hill areas.

7 Colonial ethnography Previous english writings on the Kachin were written by colonial adminstrators. They assumed that tribe = single culture= given territory = single language = ‘race.’ They explained variations in language and cultural traits in the Kachin Hill areas as due to historical migrations. Hence, Shan were Chinese who had migrated to the Kachin lowlands. Kachin languages were Tibeto-Burmese, hence it was assumed that the Kachin had migrated from Tibet in earlier centuries. However, these conjectural histories did not fit the facts of dispersion of languages and cultural traits. For Leach, the major determining difference between the Kachin and Shan was ecological: Shan were valley dwellers, practising wet-rice cultivation and were Buddhist Kachin were hill dwellers, subsistence agriculturalists and animists. Further research showed that many names of tribes that were assumed to be fixed were appllied by colonial administrators: E.g. Lao, Dene, and other words really just meant ‘our people’ in the respective language. Many more expamples of people crossing ethnic boundaries and of changing cynamics of ethnic groups were found: E.g. the Fur and Baggara in Sudan. E.g. The Nuer were really ‘Dinka’ in the past.

8 Tribes as ethnic groups
Individuals in the Kachin Hills used their ethnicity strategically, in relation to external political contexts. Successful Kachin chiefs tried to emulate the Shan princes. Some Kachin would migrate to the plains, learn Thai, become Buddhist and within a few generations ‘become Shan.’ Similarly, people who lost their land in the plains would migrate to the hills and gradually become ‘Kachin.’ However, the flow of personell across ethnic boundaries did not erase the notion that there were differences between the hill dwellers and the plains.

9 Ethnic groups and boundaries (Barth)
Focus is on viewing ethnicity relationally and as a process. Does not assume that shared culture=shared language=shared territory= a single ethnic identity. Rather the problem becomes that of identifying the conditions under which ethnic boundaries are maintained and those under which they change. For ethnicities to exist, there has to also be a concept of a boundary between ‘us’ and them. Continuity of an ethnic group presupposes the existence of a boundary? How is this maintained? How does this change? Also, this approach gives primary emphasis to the fact that ethnic identity is a category of ascription by the actors themselves.

10 Many Societies are Polyethnic
Types of Ethnic Boundaries: Two or more ethnic groups may occupy distinct ecological niches and exploit different resources, but may be linked through incorporation in a polyethnic state and/or through the market. Interaction is likely to be complementary (Kachin/Shan). Market interaction can leave wide areas of cultural diversity untouched. They may monopolize separate territories, but coexist in the same ecological space, here often competitive boundaries are produced. They may offer complementary goods and services for each other, in which case they may be complementary, but also stratified. E.g. caste or caste-like systems. Movement across ethnic boundaries will depend upon particular economic/ecologic/political circumstances, e.g. Fur and Baggara.

11 To sum up: Focus now is on how societies change.
Also on the influence of external factors, e.g. colonialism. Aspects that had seemed ‘objective’ and ‘fixed’ in time are now seen to be constructed and change through time, e.g. ethnic and ‘tribal’ identities. The focus is on a relational and processual approach to understanding how social groups and boundaries are CONSTRUCTED

Download ppt "Leach’s Critique of Structural Functionalism"

Similar presentations

Ads by Google