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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Constitution of Inequality in Yurok Society


Ethnographic accounts of the precontact Yurok of Northwest California serve as a test case for evaluating Jane Collier's (1988) recent models of the constitution of inequality in kin-based societies. This analysis does not support Collier's basic thesis that the nature of the relationship between husbands and their wives' kin determines the degree of social inequality. Nor does it support her contention that each of three contrastive models represents a particular type of society, since two of her three models apply to the Yurok case. However, Collier's models, treated as organizational themes rather than societal types, represent useful analytical tools for understanding the bases of inequality in Yurok society. In addition to the social structural relations explored by Collier, particular material circumstances and cosmological tenets established the contexts in which people negotiated the distribution of power, privilege, and prestige.

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