A Study of the Nuer Community of South SudanAbstractThis paper covers various aspects of the Nuer community and the research is conducted online (internet) from different scholarly articles and books. Four different aspects of this community are explored in detail in different topics The specific aspects include the adaption of the Nuer people to the environment in regards to their settlement pattern, the social control processes the Nuer people adopt, the function of marriage in the stability of the Nuer culture and the importance of raising and herding cattle for the Nuer people.
According to Pritchard (1940), the Nuer community originates in South Sudan and forms a part of the East African ethnic group known as the Nilotes. The Nuer usually occupy the marshes and savanna on the banks of the River Nile and their zone of occupation is 500 miles towards the south of Khartoum in Sudan. The language the Nuer cultural group speaks is an Eastern Sudanic language which is Nilotic in nature (Pritchard, 1940, p.
3). The study in this paper covers the four aspects described above thus giving a clear structure of the social framework of the Nuer community.Keywords: the Nuer people, communityA Study on the Nuer Community of South SudanThe Nuer Adaptation to the EnvironmentDue to the environmental changes that occur within the year, the Nuer settlement pattern regularly changes in a bid to adjust. This translates to the group being in constant movement such as during the rainy season when the Nuerland is heavily flooded. During this period, the Nuer occupy the narrow strips of land that are above the flood line. The rainy season occurs between the months of April and October while the dry season occurs between November and March. The activity that the Nuer women occupy themselves with during the rainy season is the cultivation of maize and millet. These crops form the staple foods that the Nuer group depends on as their main sources of nutrition. On the other hand, the Nuer men engage in the activity of pasturing their herds in areas nearby during the rainy season. When the dry season comes, the reserves the Nuer have are limited and the physically strong men move their herds away. Most of their human population is dispersed by sending family members to the cattle camp in this period. Resulting from this migratory pattern of living that is dependent on the seasons, the Nuer have been identified as transhumant.Social control in the Nuer Community The Nuer ascribe to secular techniques of control in their society such as the practice of informal authority by elders in a village. According to Drummond (1974), the authority of such a man, a tut, is usually in the form of advice and opinion (p.77). These elders are greatly respected and the most crucial role they serve is solving any affairs that occur within family groups. Another means of social control are the men referred to as the leopard-skin chiefs who mediate disputes and intervene in cases such as homicide occurrences. The primary task of these chiefs in such cases is the arrival of a fair settlement which avoids blood feuds. Tasked with the responsibility of giving the final opinion in these cases, these chiefs aid in preserving social order within the community. Another means of social control is violent self-help which is positively effective because the possibility of violence among the Nuer people is extremely high. Drummond (1974) states among the Nuer, the principles of fission and fusion are two further secular techniques of social control (p.79). The Function of Marriage in the Nuer community Marriage serves as the most essential institution within the Nuer community and is considered a collective goal along with family. Common in the community are marriages that are polygynous in nature which are marriages whereby men have multiple wives. Essential in promoting increase in relations, marriage for the Nuer people creates new links between persons from diverse communities through women. Marriages are legalized though the exchange of bride-price which is typically the payment of cattle and the cattle are shared among people in the clan. Fundamental in ensuring that the man’s lineage is continued, marriage also gives the man heirs which earn him a permanent position in the series of ancestors the man comes from.According to Hutchinson (2012), Everyone fears the true death’ or the complete death’ ” which is to say, a death without surviving children to stand one’s head,’ remember one’s name, and more generally revitalize one’s influence in the world (p. 19). Hence, children are placed highly in the Nuer community as they are viewed as paramount blessings from God.The Value of Cattle in the Nuer Society According to Hutchinson (2012), Rural Nuer men and women today, as in the past, view cattle as quintessential sources and symbols of life, health, fertility, status, and prosperity (p.18). The Nuer man will endanger his life so as to protect his cattle or raid neighbour’s cattle. Cattle are a supply of food such as milk and meat as well as an important source of leather and dung. During marriage, cattle serve a significant purpose because the ceremony is marked through the family of the bridegroom giving cattle to the bride’s family. Strong social bonds between the Dinka and the Nuer and new connections with outsiders are also formed with cattle being the primary medium. Political issues are settled through the payment of cattle and without cattle, a man is not allowed to participate in these negotiations. Everyday transactions use cattle as the currency of exchange and thus cattle herding forms the basis of the economy. In religious ceremonies, cattle are slaughtered along with goats and sheep sacrificially to the spirits, God and the ancestors. The Nuer believe that in no circumstances should a cow be slaughtered aside for the purpose of sacrifice and appeasement to ancestors. These animals are sacrificed to pray for rain, illness treatment, improved crop yield and fertility. For procreation within the community, cattle are deemed as greatly vital in the continuity of generations for a Nuer man. Considering the many roles cattle serve in the community, almost all traditional practices and social engagements the Nuer have are related to cattle.ReferencesEvans-Pritchard, E. (1940). The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Intervention of a Nilotic People. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Online) Available at: (Accessed 27th 2019)Hutchinson, S. E. (2012). A Guide to the Nuer of Jonglei State. Jonglei Conference, Nairobi, 19- 21 March. (Online) Available at: (Accessed 27th January 2019)Drummond, L. (1974). Social Control by Subsistence Patterns in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Online) Available at: HYPERLINK ” p.57-109.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y” p.57-109.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y