Dani Residence and Household Composition

Dani household organization fits into none of the categories we have outlined and illustrated to describe widely recurrent domestic arrangements. Heider observes that nuclear family residence is virtually nonexistant but beyond this negative feature a general pattern is obscure.
Basically, the rationale of Dani household compostion and structure is to group men together on the basis of assorted kinship, friendship, and political ties for the purposes of strategic support. Accordingly, household membership focuses around a male household head of some prominence, (noted as a ab goktek, or "bigman"), and his adult male depependants, or clients. Women move into their husbands' compounds upon marriage although man and wife live in separate structures within the unit. The men sleep and spend much of their time together, in a large common men's house located in the centre of the compound. Women and children live separately and individually in small huts around the periphery.

The compound also forms the first level of the Dani territorial structure, which groups compounds into clusters, clusters into neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods into confederations, and confederations into alliances. Like the compound, all these units are non-kin based and form the core social structure, organized in accordance with the essential demands of warfare, alliance, and status recognition. Dani Compound

© Brian Schwimmer
University of Manitoba
Date Created: October 1997
Last Updated: October 2003