Chapter 2 (pt.3)


The Medial Lineage : In relating Fortes' statements and evidence concerning the medial lineage to those which we have considered with regard to the inner lineage we confront some contradictions and problems in definition. The medial lineage does not seem to be in any significant way a different type from the inner lineage. Indeed, as we shall see, Fortes makes some of the same statements about both, including statements which assert mutually exclusive situations. I suggest that the medial and inner lineages are not in fact distinct in their implications for action within the corporate framework (as for example both are together from nuclear lineages or maximal lineages). It seems to me rather that they fall within the same conceptual category and set of practices attached to it, with only a comparative difference between them. This suggestion is borne out by the fact that Tallensi distinguish them as 'wide' and 'narrow' dug, implying rather modifications of a common identity. We shall have to consider whether there are any consistent structural implications of the additional level in the genealogies, but first let us look further at what Fortes tells us about each of the two prospective types and the distinction between them.

First off, Fortes is by no means unaware of the ambiguous nature of the distinction. He devotes considerable discussion (1945, pp. 203-5) to 'this notion of dug', as he puts it. And he does treat 'dug' as a 'zone' in this discussion, making at first no strong demarcation between the two constituent parts which emerge. It is worth looking at his consideration parts which emerge. It is worth looking at his consideration in some detail.

He begins with the distinction between dug (room) and yir (house), which we discussed above, and notes that though they are relative concepts, there is a sense in which dug, at least, has 'a more precious connotation'. However, 'no rigorous criterion can be found for this'. Tallensi tend to think of the field of lineage relations are being divided into three 'zones', those of clan, section (yizug), and dug. The last, Fortes indicates,

lies between the limits of the major segment of the yizug to which the individual belongs, on the one hand, and a level of segmentation of about the order of Doohraan yidem - that is, with a common ancestor placed about five generations back, on the other. (1945, p. 203)

Unfortunately, as we shall see, the number of generations in remove is not formally crucial (although in practice this seems a limit in many cultures, see Gluckman 1968, Peters 1960), and though Doohraan yidem is referred to throughout this discussion, it is nowhere described in detail, and does not appear in any of the diagrams accompanying this discussion. Fortes notes, in particular, that the exact genealogical extension of the lineage referred to as a dug will vary from clan to clan. He continues:

This notion of the dug, to which we have given a purely morphological formulation, is a reflex of the configuration of social interest that regulate the corporate functions of the lineage. (op. cit.).

So, it would seem to me, are all the other conceptualizations of Tale corporate groups. Presumably what Fortes is getting at is that this is more directly true for the dug, that is, its constitution is variable in more direct reflex to immediate configurations of social interests (i.e., is mor ad hoc ?) than are the other more clearly constituted and bounded corporations. If this is the case, we must ask, why give dug a 'purely morphological formulation? Fortes may in fact have asked himself this question, for two pages later, he tells us:

Thus the dug is a flexible unit and more difficult to visualize than the maximal and minimal lineages. It cannot, like them, be isolated by a morphological criterion; we identify the dug only when it emerges in social action. (1945, p. 205)

Note, for further discussion below, the fact that Fortes has here implied that the other lineages can be identified other than when they emerge in social action.

Let us return to following through Fortes' discussion.

He distinguishes the dug by contrast with the clan and section:

The zone of dug relations corresponds to a field of closer common interests. It is related to the yizug as the yizug is to the clan. At the limit it marks off the widest lineage within which there is a strong feeling of moral solidarity, a tendency for corporate unity to prevail in all circumstances, and a strong sense of undivided common interests. (pp. 203-4)

Fortes goes on to identify the Tongo lineage segment as corresponding to the widest range of the dug taken in this sense. He then gives examples of its members 'sense of undivided common interests', including cooperative labour, marriage prohibitions and culminating with the statement of 'one fundamental principle':

The wide dug marks the widest range within which differences of generation and birth order are recognized for jural and ritual purposes. (p. 204)

This 'principle' contrasts sharply with a 'cardinal rule' quoted above:

Within the clan or maximal lineage it is a cardinal rule that generation differences are not recognized beyond the limits of the inner lineage. (1949a, p. 142)

Not only is there the obvious contradiction, but we find in the latter quote that there are 'cardinal rules' pertaining to what in the earlier argument were 'flexible units' and matters of degree. From Fortes' argument in 1945, pp. 203-5, we are led to believe that the inner and medial lineages are merely terms he coined to 'save confusion' when referring to varying strengths in relations of the same kind. By 1949 (or is it a matter of 196 pages and not four years?) these ad hoc concepts seem to have become reified. We are given the impression that there are rules applying to them as morphological units.

Fortes then describes the narrow dug as forming "the core of an expanded family" (1945, p. 204) and goes on to emphasize its basic in common economic interest in patrimonial land:

This common interest in land gives the cohesion of the narrow dug a foundation upon which its moral solidarity, reinforced by the close bonds of sentiment its members have with one another, rests so firmly as to make it almost infrangible. The narrow dug is the widest unit that always stands together like one man, right or wrong. Dissensions between its members are regarded as personal quarrels even when they follow the line of genealogical cleavage within it. However acrimonious they may be, they are not permitted to divide the unit into mutually hostile segments. (p. 205)

This overstates the case for solidarity of the narrow dug to the point of being misleading. For one thin, inner lineages do segment; but more importantly, a tautology is apparent. The narrow dug is defined, not morphologically, but in terms of its close social relations and common interests. The close relations are then described, and attributed to the given unit. Next, these close relations become rules applying to that unit, most starkly with the 'cardinal rule' cited above. Are there any units to which these rules may apply? There are corporations, lineage segments, to be sure, not least of all the mysterious Doohraan biis. But do they form two types of dug within the hierarchy of lineage systems, or is 'dug' a reference to a category of relations which apply in varying degree to a number of structurally more or less (dis-)similar units?

Neither the wide nor the narrow limits of the dug can be fixed by a count of ascendant generations. The narrow dug may place its founding ancestor from four to six generations up the tree of ascent, the wide dug from five to seven generations back, reckoning from its present living head inclusively. It varies from clan to clan, the dimensions of the dub being always relative to the span and the degree of internal segmentation of the maximal lineage of which it forms a segment. As we have seen, there are maximal lineages like Guindaat which are so little segmented that they still function as wide dugat. Furthermore, a unit that is counted as a dug to-day may in a generation of two segment into two or more dugat. And it must be remembered also that in composite clans the section (yizug) is genealogically a maximal lineage, so that the dug constitutes a major segment of a maximal lineage. (p. 205)

In addition,

In many maximal lineages we find an intermediate grade of dug which is less closely integrated than the narrow dug, but more so than the wide dug. In diachronic terms it readily falls into place as a phase in the process of internal differentiation by which the narrow dug develops into a wide dug. (op. cit.)

Indeed, Fortes seems to be having a problem finding static terms to describe all of these various intermediate lineages, since, in spite of all this impressive list of good reasons not to, he goes ahead and introduces the terms inner and medial lineage into his hierarchy on the same page. He suggests that:

It will simplify our analysis and save some confusion if we give a name to the dug in the context of the lineage structure. This is justifiable, as well as expedient, for in a particular clan the dug has a determinate lineage span and segmentary order at any given time. (op. cit.)

I won't here multiply the examples given of instances in which Fortes says the same thing about the inner lineage and the medial lineage; the one above on generations will suffice. There are even more instances in which the two are cited together in such phrases as "Beyond the inner, or at most the medial lineage ..." There is even the fact that the maxim quoted above as "Kinship does not cross the (inner) lineage" (it could be taken from either p. 155 or 158 or Fortes, 1949a) turns up in Clanship as "Generation differences do not cross the dug" (p. 225). Elsewhere it is given as "Begetting does not cross the (inner) lineage," (1949a, pp. 141 and 147). In the two cases where the Tal ni is given it is the same: "do ±am pu yakat dug la" (1945, p. 225, and 1949a, p. 141). It seems clear that Fortes has moved continually toward regarding the classifications 'inner' and 'medial' lineages as given, most likely because they are descriptive of some of the wide range of intermediary lineage groups, probably certain of those within Puhug at Tongo. It seems more reasonable to refer to 'the intermediate lineages' when treating of the corporate groups involved, and to treat of variations in inter-personal relations as such. We shall discuss these intermediate lineages again below, for I suggest that they are in fact the corporations of the level at which the crucial long-term adjustments of the lineage system - the telescoping of genealogies through forgetting structurally insignificant ancestors, for example - take place, and as such are the scene of the vital interplay between corporations and relations, between long-term collective organization and short-term interests and ambitions of individuals.

The Section: With sections we move into the range of major segments, apparently fixed structurally over a long duration, and within which the relations of component corporations are primarily formal and representative, rather than based on a high density of inter personal bonds:

Beyond this range [the dug], in the zone of section relations and in that a clanship, corporate unit and solidarity tend to be a function of politico-ritual interdependence and of a balance between the competitive interests and the obligatory bonds of reciprocity of the major segments of the clan. (1945, p. 204)

Reciprocity is one of the two major categories of formal relations among the Tallensi, the other being mutuality. Reciprocity of course implies the greater distancing and the greater formal control over the vicissitudes of the relationship. Within the family, for example, fathers and sons relate with reciprocity, while brothers relate to each other through mutuality in such matters as small loans (see below). In the lineage framework, then, it is through the range of intermediate lineages that the degree of mutuality with regard to common interests is attenuated, so that by the level of the section reciprocity is dominant. We shall consider the implications of this for collective decision-making in Chapter 7, below.

A section may be a segment of either a clan or a maximal lineage. Like clanship, it has a strong territorial component in its definition, but nonetheless does correspond to an agnatically defined segment as well. As we saw to be the case with lower order units, the number of larger corporations - sections and maximal lineages - varies with the size of the clan; whether they are internally divided as to order varies as well, thus:

With the exception of the settlements of a few small clans not divided into sections ... a section is a local subdivision of the ten, occupied by a defined segment of the clan or maximal lineage. (Fortes, 1945, p. 166)

Ten, refers to the earth in a partitive sense here, with connotations of the portion of the earth associated with given corporations.

Sections seem to be analogous to sub-clans in Fortes' terminology (and, as we shall see, the notions of maximal lineage and clan are also closely related; the choice of term depends largely on what group one takes as an example). This is not to say that they are the same. For example, within Mosuor biis ('the sons of Mosuor', a dispersed clan or maximal lineage, see below) there are four sub-clans, of which one, Tongo (which functions as a maximal lineage) is divided into four sections (Fortes, 1945, pp. 42-4 and 211-20). What I mean by analogous is that they follow essentially the same rules of behaviour and construction (although Fortes presumably calls Tongo a sub-clan to accent the territorial basis in its identity). The four major segments of Tongo are to be considered sections as long as Tongo is considered a sub-clan of Mosuor biis. Tongo, however, functions as a maximal lineage (1945, p. 216) and sacrifice to Mosuor is its sole prerogative, while each of the other 'sub-clans' sacrifices to its own independent ancestors. Thus, one could with some justification argue that the ascriptive status, the rights and obligations of Puhug (a section of Tongo) are the same as those of Tongo. That is, the same formal rules apply to two lineages, modified only by the incorporation of one into the other. Tongo is not functionally much distinct from a clan, nor Puhug from a sub-clan. The situation seems in a sense to be the opposite of that in the case of inner and medial lineages treated above; here rather than a distinction based primarily on the quality of inter-personal relations, we have distinctions which are almost entirely morphological. This is the significance of the politico-ritual struggles at this level; the changing balance of political oppositions and alignments works both toward an overall equilibrium, and toward the integration of proliferating segments into units which can maintain complementary relations:

The zone of yizug [section] relations is correlated with intra-clan political and ritual relations, with the aliquot distribution between segments of the clan of rights to politico-ritual offices, and with the complementary rights and duties of the major segments of the clan, upon which the maintenance of its structural equilibrium depends. (1945, p. 203)

This is why it is important that:

In the economic, ritual, and jural concerns of the section all the segments have the same status and the same degree of relative autonomy. (1945, p. 212)

This is the lowest level at which this occurs.

Sections are also the lowest level to have relations as a corporate group (independent of the larger lineage) to other extra-lineage corporate groups. Thus, here as with the sub-clan, third parties with ties to both disputants work to prevent irreconcilable cleavages:

The structure of the sub-clan, on the plane of clanship, is such that there can never be an irreconcilable conflict between any of its segments or between any combination of segments and any other combination of segments. There will always be a segment linked by ties of clanship to both parties to hold the balance between them and to work for reconciliation. 91945, p. 49)

This is linked to the fact that sections (and sub-clans) are apparently structurally fixed, at least over fairly long durations:

Births and deaths among its members continually change the composition of the sub-clan. Deaths of male members often cause further segmentation in the lineages of smallest span. They do not affect the lineage equilibrium of the sub-clan as a whole, for this is a function of the relations between the segments of highest order. The structural relations of all segments of an order higher than the minimal segments are finally fixed. If we take any one of these supra-minimal segments by itself, its place in the whole system can be altered only by the extinction of a coordinate segment of a lineage of greater span of which it forms a part. Hence the point of time chosen for an analysis of the system is immaterial (1945, p. 191)

Actually the last sentence is only true in so far as one's reference is strictly to the morphological structure. Because this is fixed, rearrangements at this level (comparable to fission and fusion at lower levels) take place through the political re-alignments of the given corporations. This process of courses takes place through time and is of considerable importance.


The Condition of a Static View-The Corporations-The Nuclear Lineage - The Inner Lineage - The Intermediate Lineages - The Maximal Lineage - Larger Collectivities - Summary - Political, Jural and Ritual Positions - Lineage Headmen - Tendaanas - Chiefs - A Note on Ancestors

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