Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies

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CHAPTER XIV

Primitive Government

The leaders [in the initiation feasts and the victory feasts following a successful head-hunting raid] are known to the community as "really bad men," men who are aggressive, gluttons for power and prestige; men who have taken far more than their share of the women of the community, and who have also acquired, by purchase or theft, women from the neighboring tribes; men who fear no one and are arrogant and secure enough to betray whom they like with impunity. These are the men for whom a whole community will mourn when they die; their arrogance, their lust for power, is the thread upon which the important moments of social life are strung. These men—each community of two or three hundred people boasts two or three—are the fixed points in the social system. They build their compounds well and firmly. There is a strong palisade around them; there are several strong houses; there are slit drums too big to be moved about easily. Meanwhile, less important men, men with fewer wives and less security, quarrel among themselves, move about, now living with a cousin, now with a brother-in-law, now with a mother’s brother, until a quarrel over a woman disrupts the temporary alliance, which is based upon no economic necessity. These less important men shift their allegiance from one of the established big men to another, or begin to work with a man who, though still young and possessed of only three or four wives, is rising rapidly to a position of power. In this atmosphere of shifting loyalties, conspiracies, and treachery, head-hunting raids are planned, and the whole male community is temporarily united in the raid and the victory feasts that conclude them. At these feasts a frank and boisterous cannibalism is practiced, each man rejoicing at having a piece of the hated enemy between his teeth.1

1Mead, M.n/an/an/an/an/a, , 186–187 (William Morrow & Company, Inc. By permission).

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Chicago: "Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies," Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5E21RRZ1SUD3521.

MLA: . "Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies." Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5E21RRZ1SUD3521.

Harvard: , 'Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies' in Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5E21RRZ1SUD3521.