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Old December 4th, 2016, 08:12 AM   #1

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The abuse of the term "Tribe"


I am fairly often confronted with the term "Tribe" in my fields of interest, especially African history and the Romano-Germanic kingdoms. I see a lot of people, even on this forum, excessively using that very term.
A tribe is a people which traces its origin on a common ancestor, mostly mythological. In the 19th and 20th century the term "tribal" started to be used for appareantly primitive people, mostly African ones, but also native American, Celtic or Germanic ones. People which are thought to have not developed a more complex political organization on their own and in generel live a rather "uncivilied" life. Therefore, the term "tribal" is used to subliminal accuse a people of primitiveness, without beeing of much else use except of that sublinimal message, since the described people aren't even tribes after the correct definition.

Of course I must also point out that there are tribes, especially in Arabia and North Africa, also New Zealand, if I am right. I just would like to advise you guys to think more carefully about what terms you are using to describe what kind of people. For African ones I would suggest the said "people" or "ethnic group". For the Germanics, especially of Late Antiquity, it's a bit more complicated. Basicaly every one of the larger "tribes", like the Gepids, the Ostrogoths and the Franks, were in fact a conglomerate of many different people. Not only Germanics, but also Huns, Alans and even Romans. That's why the recent scholarship starts to make use of the term which was used by the Romans, "gentes". Also a bit vague, but possibly the best we got.

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Old December 4th, 2016, 08:56 AM   #2

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You are abusing the term 'thread.'
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Old December 4th, 2016, 09:09 AM   #3

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You are abusing the term 'thread.'
Are you trying to be funny?
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Old December 4th, 2016, 09:18 AM   #4
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If a tribe is descended from a common ancestor, what is the difference between tribe and clan?
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Old December 4th, 2016, 09:30 AM   #5

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I am Celt [whichever is the present meaning of this definition] as for origin, but I'm not ware that Romans defined us as "tribes". They defined Celts as "natio" [many of these "natio" made a "gens"].
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Old December 4th, 2016, 09:43 AM   #6

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Originally Posted by Chlodio View Post
If a tribe is descended from a common ancestor, what is the difference between tribe and clan?
A clan is basically a family, while a tribe is a larger construct consisting of many different clans. Also, as noted before, that common ancestor was often mythological. This mythology kept the clans together in some form of primitive political organization, ie. the tribe.
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Old December 4th, 2016, 09:51 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Swagganaut View Post
I am fairly often confronted with the term "Tribe" in my fields of interest, especially African history and the Romano-Germanic kingdoms. I see a lot of people, even on this forum, excessively using that very term.
A tribe is a people which traces its origin on a common ancestor, mostly mythological. In the 19th and 20th century the term "tribal" started to be used for appareantly primitive people, mostly African ones, but also native American, Celtic or Germanic ones. People which are thought to have not developed a more complex political organization on their own and in generel live a rather "uncivilied" life. Therefore, the term "tribal" is used to subliminal accuse a people of primitiveness, without beeing of much else use except of that sublinimal message, since the described people aren't even tribes after the correct definition.

Of course I must also point out that there are tribes, especially in Arabia and North Africa, also New Zealand, if I am right. I just would like to advise you guys to think more carefully about what terms you are using to describe what kind of people. For African ones I would suggest the said "people" or "ethnic group". For the Germanics, especially of Late Antiquity, it's a bit more complicated. Basicaly every one of the larger "tribes", like the Gepids, the Ostrogoths and the Franks, were in fact a conglomerate of many different people. Not only Germanics, but also Huns, Alans and even Romans. That's why the recent scholarship starts to make use of the term which was used by the Romans, "gentes". Also a bit vague, but possibly the best we got.
I agree with this, especially in regards to Africa. It's like how the term chief/chieftain was slapped onto a lot of different ethnic groups, as a way of downgrading them.
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Old December 4th, 2016, 12:40 PM   #8

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I have never seen the words tribe or chief/chieftain used in any sort of negative sense. For Roman-era history, "tribe" is just a translation of whatever term the Celts, Germans, or Britains used to describe themselves. "Nation" may be a more literal translation, but might also have unintended implications of size or extent. So the Batavii, Averni, Caledones, etc., are often just called "tribes". They are described as tribal people. None of this implies any sort of assumption about their socio-political organization whether simple or complex, and it certainly isn't meant to be insulting or condescending. It's just the current accepted terminology. If the word is being used differently, it isn't necessarily an "abuse".

For what it's worth, Roman citizens were divided into tribes! In fact I think that's a literal translation of the Latin, related to the position of tribune. Athens and other Greek cities had similar arrangements.

I've just never studied Victorian scholars and don't know what was always going on inside their heads, though they were absolutely bigoted and elitist! But I can't live my life trying to atone for *their* sins.

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Old December 4th, 2016, 12:49 PM   #9

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Iwi, Hapu, Whanau in Aotearoa-New Zealand


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Of course I must also point out that there are tribes, especially in Arabia and North Africa, also New Zealand, if I am right.
Generations ago, canoes sailed by Māori ancestors set out from East Polynesia and landed in New Zealand. From these founding peoples came the iwi (tribes) that form the structure of Māori society. Within each iwi are many hapū(clans or descent groups), each of which is made up of one or more whānau (extended families). The bond that holds them together is one of kinship, both with a founding ancestor and with the many members of their iwi, hapū and whānau today.

The iwi (tribe) is the largest of the groups that form Māori society. Each iwi is made up of various hapū (clans or descent groups), which might have up to several hundred members. Traditionally, the main purposes of a hapū were to defend land, and to provide support for its members.

Each hapū is made up of whānau (extended families). Whānau included much-respected elders, adults, children and grandchildren. Everyone helped each other, working for the group and caring for each otherís children and the elderly.

Each hapū was made up of different-ranking members, headed by chiefs called ariki and rangatira. First-born females also had high status. Experts in areas such as history and tradition, carving and healing were called tohunga. There were commoners and sometimes captives or slaves in each hapū.

Maori social structure - the society of the Maori of New Zealand
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Old December 5th, 2016, 11:52 AM   #10

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As I understand the Clan system in Scotland, each clan was an extended family group, descended from a common ancestor, thus in your definition, a tribe. For instance, the McKenzie clan were all those descended from Coinneach (Kenneth), thus they were sons of Kenneth, or MacKenzie. Many others were adopted into the clan over the subsequent generations, but maintained the clan status. There were sometimes several subclans under a main clan (such as the MacRaes under the MacKenzies).
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