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The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human social group. The predominant worldwide usage of the term in English is in the discipline of anthropology. This definition is contested, in part due to conflicting theoretical understandings of social and kinship structures, and also reflecting the problematic application of this concept to extremely diverse human societies. The concept is often contrasted by anthropologists with other social and kinship groups, being hierarchically larger than a lineage or clan, but smaller than a chiefdom, nation or state. These terms are equally disputed. In some cases tribes have legal recognition and some degree of political autonomy from national or federal government, but this legalistic usage of the term may conflict with anthropological definitions.
In the United States, Native American tribes are legally considered to have "domestic dependent nation" status within the territorial United States, with a government-to-government relationship with the federal government.
The modern English word tribe stems from Middle English tribu, which ultimately derives from Latin tribus. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it remains unclear if this form is the result of a borrowing from a Romance language source (such as Old French tribu) or if the form is a result of borrowing directly from Latin (the Middle English plural tribuz 1250 may be a direct representation of Latin plural tribūs). Modern English tribe may also be a result of a common pattern wherein English borrows nouns directly from Latin and drops suffixes, including -us. Latin tribus is generally held by linguists to be a compound formed from two elements: tri- 'three' and bhu, bu, fu, a verbal root meaning 'to be'.
Latin tribus is held to derive from the Proto-Indo-European compound *tri-dʰh₁u/o- ('rendered in three, tripartite division'; compare with Umbrian trifu 'trinity, district', Sanskrit trídha 'threefold').
Considerable debate has accompanied efforts to define and characterize tribes. In the popular imagination, tribes reflect a primordial social structure from which all subsequent civilizations and states developed. Anthropologist Elman Service presenteda system of classification for societies in all human cultures, based on the evolution of social inequality and the role of the state. This system of classification contains four categories:
Tribes are therefore considered to be a political unit formed from an organisation of families (including clans and lineages) based on social or ideological solidarity. Membership of a tribe may be understood simplistically as being an identity based on factors such as kinship ("clan"), ethnicity ("race"), language, dwelling place, political group, religious beliefs, oral tradition and/or cultural practices.
Archaeologists continue to explore the development of pre-state tribes. Current research suggests that tribal structures constituted one type of adaptation to situations providing plentiful yet unpredictable resources. Such structures proved flexible enough to coordinate production and distribution of food in times of scarcity, without limiting or constraining people during times of surplus. anthropologist Morton Fried argued in 1967 that bands organized into tribes in order to resist the violence and exploitation of early kingdoms and states. He wrote:
In fact, there is no absolute necessity for a tribal stage as defined by Sahlins and Service, no necessity, that is, for such a stage to appear in the transit from a single settlement with embedded political organization, to a complex-state structured polity. Such a developmental process could have gone on within a unit that we may conceptualize as a city-state, such a unit as Jericho might have become in its later stages … tribalism can be viewed as reaction to the formation of complex political structure rather than a necessary preliminary stage in its evolution.
The term "tribe" was in common use in the field of anthropology until the late 1950s and 1960s. The continued use of the term has attracted controversy among anthropologists and other academics active in the social sciences, with scholars of anthropological and ethnohistorical research challenging the utility of the concept. In 1970, anthropologist J. Clyde Mitchell wrote:
Despite the membership boundaries for a tribe being conceptually simple, in reality they are often vague and subject to change over time. In his 1975 study, The Notion of the Tribe, Fried provided numerous examples of tribes that encompassed members who spoke different languages and practiced different rituals, or who shared languages and rituals with members of other tribes. Similarly, he provided examples of tribes in which people followed different political leaders, or followed the same leaders as members of other tribes. He concluded that tribes in general are characterized by fluid boundaries, heterogeneity and dynamism, and are not parochial.
Part of the difficulty with the term is that it seeks to construct and apply a common conceptual framework across diverse cultures and peoples. Different anthropologists studying different peoples therefore draw conflicting conclusions about the nature, structure and practices of tribes. Writing on the Kurdish peoples, anthropologist Martin van Bruinessen argued, "the terms of standard anthropological usage, 'tribe', 'clan' and 'lineage' appear to be a straitjacket that ill fits the social reality of Kurdistan".
There are further negative connotations of the term "tribe" that have reduced its use. Writing in 2013, scholar Matthew Ortoleva noted that "like the word Indian, [t]ribe is a word that has connotations of colonialism."Survival International says "It is important to make the distinction between tribal and indigenous because tribal peoples have a special status acknowledged in international law as well as problems in addition to those faced by the wider category of indigenous peoples."
Few tribes today remain isolated from the development of the modern state system. Tribes have lost their legitimacy to conduct traditional functions, such as tithing, delivering justice and defending territory, with these being replaced by states functions and institutions, such as taxation, law courts and the military. Most have suffered decline and loss of cultural identity. Some have adapted to the new political context and transformed their culture and practices in order to survive, whilst others have secured legal rights and protections.
Fried proposed that most surviving tribes do not have their origin in pre-state tribes, but rather in pre-state bands. Such "secondary" tribes, he suggested, developed as modern products of state expansion. Bands comprise small, mobile, and fluid social formations with weak leadership. They do not generate surpluses, pay no taxes, and support no standing army. Fried argued that secondary tribes develop in one of two ways. First, states could set them up as means to extend administrative and economic influence in their hinterland, where direct political control costs too much. States would encourage (or require) people on their frontiers to form more clearly bounded and centralized polities, because such polities could begin producing surpluses and taxes, and would have a leadership responsive to the needs of neighboring states (the so-called tribes of the United States or British India provide good examples of this). The British favored the label "aboriginal tribe" for some communities.
India adopted a republican constitution in 1950, after three years of debate in its Constituent Assembly. During the debate, Jaipal Singh, a member of Munda tribe from Central India advocated for special provisions for the 'Adibasi' -- a translation into Hindi of 'aboriginal'. His arguments proved persuasive. These communities were to have seats in the legislatures and positions in government employment 'reserved' for them.Each of the prepared a list of communities that deserved special protections. These names were listed in a "Schedule" (appendix) to the Constitution. So these came to called the 'Scheduled Tribes', often abbreviated to ST.
Second, bands could form "secondary" tribes as a means to defend against state expansion. Members of bands would form more clearly bounded and centralized polities, because such polities could begin producing surpluses that could support a standing army that could fight against states, and they would have a leadership that could co-ordinate economic production and military activities.
In the Native American tribes of North America, tribes are considered sovereign nations, that have retained their sovereignty or been granted legal recognition by the federal government.[ citation needed ]
A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.
An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, religion, or social treatment within their residing area. Ethnicity is sometimes used interchangeably with the term nation, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism, and is separate from the related concept of races.
Tribalism is the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles. Human evolution has primarily occurred in small hunter-gatherer groups, as opposed to in larger and more recently settled agricultural societies or civilizations. With a negative connotation and in a political context, tribalism can also mean discriminatory behavior or attitudes towards out-groups, based on in-group loyalty.
A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe, such as in the Anishinaabe clan system.
A band society, sometimes called a camp, or in older usage, a horde, is the simplest form of human society. A band generally consists of a small kin group, no larger than an extended family or clan. The general consensus of modern anthropology sees the average number of members of a social band at the simplest level of foraging societies with generally a maximum size of 30 to 50 people.
Omaha kinship is the system of terms and relationships used to define family in Omaha tribal culture. Identified by Lewis Henry Morgan in his 1871 work Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, the Omaha system is one of the six major kinship systems which he identified internationally.
Political anthropology is the comparative study of politics in a broad range of historical, social, and cultural settings.
A chiefdom is a form of hierarchical political organization in non-industrial societies usually based on kinship, and in which formal leadership is monopolized by the legitimate senior members of select families or 'houses'. These elites form a political-ideological aristocracy relative to the general group.
Fictive kinship is a term used by anthropologists and ethnographers to describe forms of kinship or social ties that are based on neither consanguineal nor affinal ties. It contrasts with true kinship ties.
A segmentary lineage society has equivalent parts ("segments") held together by shared values. A segmentary lineage society is a type of tribal society.
History of anthropology in this article refers primarily to the 18th- and 19th-century precursors of modern anthropology. The term anthropology itself, innovated as a New Latin scientific word during the Renaissance, has always meant "the study of man". The topics to be included and the terminology have varied historically. At present they are more elaborate than they were during the development of anthropology. For a presentation of modern social and cultural anthropology as they have developed in Britain, France, and North America since approximately 1900, see the relevant sections under Anthropology.
Surplus product is an economic concept explicitly theorised by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy. Roughly speaking, it is the extra goods produced above the amount needed for a community of workers to survive at its current standard of living. Marx first began to work out his idea of surplus product in his 1844 notes on James Mill's Elements of political economy.
A tribal chief or chieftain is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom.
A stateless society is a society that is not governed by a state. In stateless societies, there is little concentration of authority; most positions of authority that do exist are very limited in power and are generally not permanently held positions; and social bodies that resolve disputes through predefined rules tend to be small. Stateless societies are highly variable in economic organization and cultural practices.
Morton Herbert Fried, was a distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University in New York City from 1950 until his death in 1986. He made considerable contributions to the fields of social and political theory.
Culture and Conflict in the Middle East is a 2008 book by Philip Carl Salzman, an emeritus professor of Anthropology at McGill University and senior fellow of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a Canadian thinktank associated with free-market, conservative political thought.
The terms internet tribe or digital tribe are used as slang terms for unofficial online communities or organizations of people who share a common interest, and who are usually loosely affiliated with each other through social media or other Internet routes. The term is related to "tribe", which traditionally refers to people closely associated in both geography and genealogy. Nowadays, it looks more like a virtual community or a personal network and it is often called global digital tribe. Most anthropologists agree that a tribe is a (small) society that practices its own customs and culture, and that these define the tribe. The tribes are divided into clans, with their own customs and cultural values that differentiate them from activities that occur in 'real life' contexts. People feel more inclined to share and defend their ideas on social networks than they would face to face.
Melvin Lawrence Ember was an American cultural anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher with wide-ranging interests who combined an active research career with writing for nonprofessionals.
State formation is the process of the development of a centralized government structure in a situation where one did not exist prior to its development. State formation has been a study of many disciplines of the social sciences for a number of years, so much so that Jonathan Haas writes that "One of the favorite pastimes of social scientists over the course of the past century has been to theorize about the evolution of the world's great civilizations."
Political economy in anthropology is the application of the theories and methods of historical materialism to the traditional concerns of anthropology, including but not limited to non-capitalist societies. Political economy introduced questions of history and colonialism to ahistorical anthropological theories of social structure and culture. Most anthropologists moved away from modes of production analysis typical of structural Marxism, and focused instead on the complex historical relations of class, culture and hegemony in regions undergoing complex colonial and capitalist transitions in the emerging world system.