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Title: Conjugal units and single persons : an analysis of the social system of the Naiken of the Nilgiris (South India)
Author: Bird, N.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1983
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The thesis is concerned with the tribal Naiken who inhabit forested areas in the Nilgiri region of South India. It is based on participant-observation in one local group comprising 69 people. The group subsist on food-gathering and trade in minor forest produce, combined with wage labour in a nearby plantation. On the whole, it can be characterised, with respect to Woodburn's distinction, as an immediate-return society. The social system of such societies is little understood, and is often described as 'chaotic' and 'deficient'. The aim of the thesis is to elucidate the patterns which underly the Naiken social system, and to develop a model which can explain how it functions and is reproduced. The main focus is on social organisation, but related aspects of social structure, kinship and marriage, are also examined. The analysis is related to the wider literature on the Nilgiri, which includes numerous brief references to the people in question (under the name Kurumbas). Prior to this work, however, no specific anthropological study of this group has been undertaken. It is suggested in the thesis that there are two primary social elements in the Naiken social system - the conjugal unit and the single person. The conjugal unit is the Naiken domestic group, and its core consists of the conjugal pair who jointly undertake most subsistence and domestic activities. The core of the second element, namely, the single person comprises offspring who leave their families at a comparatively young age, then move between conjugal units in the local group, until they establish new domestic groups at a comparatively late age. There is little institutionalised cohesion between conjugal units, and little social and economic interaction, even between those closely related by kinship ties. It is proposed that by constantly moving between them, the single persons bond the conjugal units and enable the local group to function. Single persons have a major role in extra-familial and pan-group economic and social activities. Status appears to be influential in the social zone concerning single persons, whereas Contract appears to be predominant elsewhere in the social system.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available