Ottenberg, Simon. Leadership and authority in an African society: the Afikpo village-group

Table of Contents

Publication Information

Part I The Village

Chapter I The Setting

Organizational Features

Patrilineal Groupings

Matrilineal Groupings

Family Groupings


History, Class, And Authority

Chapter Ii Form And History

Physical Features


Chapter Iii Age Mates

The Emergence Of Male Age Sets

Age-set Organization And Activities

Age-set Segments


Chapter Iv Elders And Youths

Formation Of The Executive Age Grade

Functions Of The Executive Age Grade

The Young Elders

Organization Of The Elders' Grade

Activities Of The Elders' Grade

Female Age Groupings

Chapter V The Secret Society


Ritual Leaders

The Titled Group

Public Ceremonies

Chapter Vi The Wards

Ward Structure

The Ward Executive Grade

Ward Elders

Ward Activities

Variation In Village Organization

Chapter Vii Interpretation

Structures And Principles

Variation In Village Size

Internal Conflict

Authority And Religion

Part Ii The Village-group

Chapter Viii Common Identities

Ritual Specialists And Ceremonial Activities

The Yam Priests

The Rain Controller

Oath Shrines

Medical-religious Specialists

Aro Agents

Other Ritual Specialists

The Cycle Of Feasts


Chapter Ix The Age-grade Organization

Subgrade Characteristics

The Senior Subgrade

The Middle Subgrade

The Junior Subgrade

The Female Elders


Chapter X Judges And Courts

The Special Courts

Nontraditional Courts

Chapter Xi The Authority Of The Elders

Welfare, Custom, And Change

The Politics Of Factionalism

External Relations


Chapter Xii Conclusions

Structural Considerations

The Organizational Hierarchy


Publication Information

Paragraph Subjects (OCM)

Publication Information


Title: Leadership and authority in an African society: the Afikpo village-group

Published By: Seattle: University of Washington Press, [1971]. xviii, 336 p., plates: ill., maps

By line: Simon Ottenberg

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: HRAF, 2003. Computer File

Culture: Igbo (FF26)

Subjects: Identification (101); Age stratification (561); Lineages (613); Community structure (621); Inter-community relations (628); Magicians and diviners (791); Trial procedure (695); Judicial authority (692); Legal and judicial personnel (693); Sodalities (575); Gender status (562);

Abstract: This source contains a lucid and lengthy description and analysis of the social structure of the Afikpo village-group. The author builds his discussion from the smallest units (lineages, age sets, and secret societies) on out to larger units including the village and village-group. While there is information on the activities of all these groups, the focus is always on their structure, their place in the local authority structure, their leadership structure, and the process of decision-making within small groups. One of the major conclusions of this study is that, although the Afikpo village-group is organizationally complex in terms of the number of groups to which any person belongs, '...the complexities are reducible to a number of fundamental features, based on descent, age, and sexual distinctiveness, which interpenetrate each type of organization, and to a limited number of types of generalized leadership roles.

Document Number: 12

Document ID: ff26-012

Document Type: Monograph

Language: English

Note: Includes bibliographical references (p. 323-328)

Field Date: 1951-1953, 1959-1960, 1966

Evaluation: Ethnologist-5

Analyst: Eleanor C. Swanson ; 1980-1981

Coverage Date: esp. 1952-1960

Coverage Place: Afikpo village-group, southeastern Nigeria

LCSH: Igbo (African people)


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