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Possible deletion[edit]

The words "tribe" and "tribalism" are not in common use by anthropologists/sociologists. At the very least, they're not well-defined. See this, from the University of Pennsylvania: Perhaps the article need not exist. Tropical Violet (talk) 04:06, 18 January 2012 (UTC)

"Tribalism" as ephitet[edit]

Michael Hardy changed the first line of the article from "Tribalism refers to a..." to "Tribalism is a..." He cites this reasoning: "A dog does not refer to an animal; a dog _is_ an animal. The WORD "dog" refers to an animal, but it's usually better to write about the thing rather than about the word." I do not believe this reasoning holds in this case. "Tribalism" is not a social system, really; it is more an ephitet, referring to a specific state of affairs. "Commie pinko bastard" is not an indivudal with Leftist political beliefs; "Commie pinko bastard" refers to an individual with Leftist political beliefs. To say that it "is" suggests that the ephitet is grounded in reality, rather than being one (dim) view of that reality. In other words, if tribalism is the state of affairs where society is divided into many, small groups, then that state of affairs is negative--because tribalism is pejorative. Considering that the rest of the article elucidates the complexities and ambiguities of the pejorative, the initial statement seems jarringly assertive. Jason Godesky 15:36, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

Tribalism (or at least "tribal social values") is not pejorative in the anthropological community. See for example 22:05, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
As one of the "new tribalists" the article mentions, I often use the term "tribalism" as a good thing--but that doesn't change the fact that to most people, "tribalism" is a pejorative. See either of the external links for fine examples of that (much more common) usage. I agree, "tribalism" shouldn't be a pejorative--but it is. Jason Godesky 01:37, 11 October 2005 (UTC)
Why are you guys arguing whether Tribalism is or refers to society living in groups when neither is true? Tribalism (like chauvinism and like racism, to which it bears some resemblance) is more of a point of view or a state of mental being than a system of societal organization. The original definition (back in 2003) was pretty close to the dictionary definition but seems to have diverged wildly since then. When I get home, I'll look at this more and maybe strive to do a re-write. For what it's worth, Mr. Godesky, your "commie pinko bastard" sentence works because you put the phrase in quotes. This implies a "The phrase" in front of it. If you were to remove the quotes, you would have to say "A commie pink bastard is someone who...". "Commie pinko bastard" is a phrase. A commie pink bastard is a person.
The "only" reason a person would want to deny that humans are tribal might be because they'd then have to admit that we possibly evolved from lesser primates. Humas have a tribal histroy, let's admit this this first and foremost. Let us not deny our recorded and obvious history. Look at the way we treat each other... tribalism comes so naturally to us, we don't even notice it. It's like breathing. To summarize, to admit we are tribal would be too embarassing for us. This might be supportive evidence that man evolved. Sorry, but we are tribal, and indeed it points to just that. How could the truth be considered a ephitet ? It comes down to whether or not one thinks man evolved, does it not ? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:57, 4 February 2009 (UTC)


I think there were interesting elements that should be merged in from a large passage of the article that was removed. --Nectarflowed (talk) 17:12, 18 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I've restored the old elements, reworked them, and added a lot of new material, as well. Jason Godesky 15:15, 5 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Thanks for the excellent reworking :)--Nectarflowed T 02:12, 6 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I have added a fairly large amount of text to account for a parallel definition of the word. I think it was important to capture this meaning of the word. I have deleted as little of the original text as I could, and as a result the entire article doesn't quite flow as well as it used to. Still, I think it's an improvement. The only part I deliberately rewrote was the comments about how racial conflicts and genocide are the result of recent growth into nations and empires. I don't think this is at all true, but I'd like to hear reasons to back it up. My impression is that even with the advent of nations and empires, tribalism (as an us vs them motivational tool) has just morphed into nationalism. The conflicts are quite nasty, but they are typically international, not intranational as the original text implied... and international conflict fits with the original modus operandi of tribalism, and hence does not constitute any sort of shift. I apologize for my harsh tone in the "why are you guys arguing about..." entry (and for forgetting to sign it!). Upon further reflection, I accept the original definition of tribalism as also an appropriate one. Jurgen Hissen 07:38, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

Well, in a normal evolutionary context, tribes typically don't see a lot of each other. The problems arise when they start having contact with one another, and undulating patterns of first scarcity (motivating conflict), followed by abundance (allowing conflict). See "The Origins of War," by Donald Kagan. It's still tribalism (us vs. them) that helps motivate it, but you don't get war just from tribalism. In other words, in our original, forager context, tribalism worked out fine; in our modern context, the very same thing gives us genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, you name it. Jason Godesky 15:04, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

No Neutral POV[edit]

The phrase "This usage of the term is unfortunate" seems to eliminate any neutrality from the POV of this article.

Right - POV removed, along with dispute tag, hoping there are no more objections? PAR 23:23, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

Eskimo "correction"[edit]

There's some debate over the origins of the term "Eskimo," but basically, the Eskimo are the Inuit. It is a name for the Inuit and other, related circumpolar cultures. One of the theories of where this term might have come from, noted in the article, is the Ojibwe term for "eaters of raw meat." This was incorrectly "corrected" to say, "...but they were known to the Inuit by a name translating roughly as 'eaters of raw meat.'" This is incorrect, and with insufficient space for the full rationale in the edit summary, I've put it here. Jason Godesky 20:48, 27 April 2006 (UTC)

Politics template?[edit]

What does tribalism have to do with politics? Jason Godesky 02:06, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

Tribalism is an instinctive behavior of humans adapted to small, closely related groups (tribes). Politics is just the adaptation of this instinct to the building and control of large, unrelated groups. (e.g., nations). Check out the "tribalism and evolution" section.
While that's certainly true (I wrote most of the "Tribalism and evolution" section), it seems about as relevant to politics as, say, feminism--in fact, less so! Of course tribalism is relevant to politics; but it's also relevant to sociology, to anthropology, and to all manner of other social sciences. If the politics template is casting a net that wide, it seems something like half of Wikipedia should be tagged. Jason Godesky 15:44, 2 May 2006 (UTC)
Well I wrote the second-to-last paragraph so I guess between the two of us we are responsible for the whole section. You say that "that's certainly true" but how can it be true, and yet irrelevant? If it (my paragraph above) is true, then its obviously relevant. What I am saying is that the co-option of the tribal instinct is absolutely fundamental to politics. Without the small-group tribal and familial instinct, humans are unorganizable and politics is non-existent. That sounds pretty relevant to me. Also, what were you questioning, the addition of the ideology-small template? I mean, I can see that simply being relevant is not necessarily cause for inclusion. Quantum mechanics is a very fundamental theory of the universe, but not every article should be tagged as quantum-mechanical, but the inclusion of the ideology-small in the "see also" section seems to be unobtrusive and appropriate. PAR 17:35, 2 May 2006 (UTC)
I was initially complaining about the Politics sidebar added by Electionworld (see 16:07, 30 April 2006 version). I would not classify tribalism under "Politics" specifically, in a taxonomy, as that seemed to. The link in the "See also" is much more understandable, but I see tribalism's relevance to politics as analogous to Dostoevsky's pertinence to quantum mechanics, to use your example. The two contributions in so short a time seem like the efforts of a politically-minded contributor to define tribalism in a fairly narrow sense. But, as I said, the template in the "See also" section is much more understandable, though I still think the other entries in that section are more relevant and should probably enjoy greater pride of place. Perhaps it is only my anthropology background that makes me think that tribalism is far more relevant to anthropology, than it is to politics. Jason Godesky 19:58, 2 May 2006 (UTC)
Oh, I never saw that. Never mind, I agree with you. Except its much closer than Dostoevski is to quantum mechanics. I'm not an anthropologist, but wouldn't the study of human national and international politics, especially the evolutionary basis of human politics, be a branch of anthropology? Isn't the study of tribalism just the study of human politics on the tribal level? PAR 00:08, 3 May 2006 (UTC)
I would say no--tribalism is as much related to politics as its close relatives, chauvanism, jingoism, sectarianism, and so forth. Related, certainly, but much more questions of sociology than politics. Jason Godesky 02:28, 3 May 2006 (UTC)
The tribalism you are referring to has negative connotations and is the "second definition" in the article. I am referring to the first definition, the scientific definition, without connotations, negative or positive. PAR 23:39, 7 May 2006 (UTC)

Confusion of altruism and kin selection[edit]

I have replaced certain references to altruism where kin selection is actually the proper term. The support of tribal members for each other stems more from their kinship than from altruism as evidenced by the fact that the same support would not be extended to non-kin or a stranger. Altruism is the support of unrelated individuals for each other without expectation of the favor being returned. Kin selection is the support of related individuals for each other without expectation of the favor being returned. Reciprocity is the support of members of a group (kin or not) with the expectation of the favor being returned. PAR 23:07, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

I believe this correction is incorrect. Even where altruism is the extension of the same behavior to non-kin, how do you define "kin"? This varies widely from society to society; among the !Kung, for instance, if you share the same first name, you're siblings. Tribalism still explains the evolution of altruism, because the definition of kin is so fluid. Jason Godesky 13:26, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
I mean the genetic definition of kin - twins are the closest kin possible, then siblings and parents and children, then cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. This is a definition which is completely non-fluid. Of course, the kin selection process will not be on the basis of actual kinship, but on perceived kinship, which is less rigid a definition. However, in a family situation, or a primitive tribal situation, the two tend to be very close.
I never heard of the !Kung example you give, but I wonder - If one had the same first name and was not a member of the !Kung tribe would they still be considered siblings? If not, your point is weakened. What is the origin of this practice? I mean there must be some reason for it, the !Kung didn't sit down one day and decide to make up a random meaningless rule regarding the definition of sibling. I am curious about this example, do you have any good references? Thanks - PAR 15:49, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
It's called fictive kinship, and it's quite common. Most cultures do not recognize the full slate of genetic kinship as kin, and most cultures add non-genetic relationships to "kin," so the cultural conception of kin and genetic relationships are usually mis-matched in one direction, the other, or both. The purpose of fictive kinships is usually understood to be an expansion of one's support network. But, if we are working with a biological, rather than a social, definition of kin, then there is no question that the correction is absolutely incorrect, because the behaviors in question are extended to all members of the tribe. All members of the tribe are often percieved as kin, but they may or may not be genetically related. Jason Godesky 16:07, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
I looked up the genetic definition of altruism and the definition I gave was not completely correct. Altruism is the self sacrificial support of individuals for another without expectation of the favor being returned, and is not limited to unrelated individuals. So kin selection is a form of altruism. But nevertheless, two members of the same tribe will certainly be more closely genetically related than two humans chosen at random. I will change the offending sentence accordingly. PAR 03:47, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

I didn't really add anything new. I changed the structure of a few paragraphs, since all these random additions left the page practically unreadable. I also deleted a few bits of irrelevant, uncited, and distracting information (genocide in the bible, the bible as history, and colonialism in Rawanda). There are a lot of sketchy items in the page that still need to be referenced, however. Like, the whole second paragraph. I don't really think that SOCIAL EVOLUTIONISM should be conflated with evolution, proper. I think someone should: either erase this, or make it relevant to the discussion at hand. The only really relevant part of this entire section is the paragraph on Dunbar and Gladwell. If anything, shouldn't the parts about GENOCIDE go in the VIOLENCE section? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:06, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

Neanderthal genocide[edit]

The article contends that Homo sapiens may have wiped out Homo neanderthalensis in Europe. This was once believed, but has been quite firmly refuted. We have no evidence for human violence prior to the Neolithic. Jason Godesky 18:10, 15 September 2006 (UTC)


Could this be at all related to the increase in things like subcultures (ie. Emo, Goth, "Vampyres" etc.)? It seems people enjoy categorizing themselves soas to fit into a group and especially among teenagers a subculture. Just a thought.

You may be looking for Neo-Tribalism instead. Mjk2357 01:06, 16 October 2006 (UTC)
No, I think that would more properly be tribalism. Jason Godesky 14:46, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

Examples of modern day tribalism[edit]

Would it be acceptable to add to this section sectarianism in Iraq between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds; and also in Northern Ireland between Roman Catholics and Protestants? In Northern Ireland, for example, the Alliance Party often use the term "Tribal Politics" by way of criticising more hard line political groupings, ie Sinn Fein and the DUP. Paddyman1989 09:56, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

Is this a joke?[edit]

There is not a single reference on this entire page and the only warning you place is that it may not be neutral? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:55, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

Agreed, this is one of the most egregious examples I've seen. I couldn't quite tag it with Unreferenced, so I added Refimprove. Hopefully some intrepid researcher will improve what currently reads like a (bad) freshman paper. -- Kyle Maxwell (talk) 01:55, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

"Some tribes are particularly egalitarian, and most tribes have only a vague notion of private property: many have none at all."

That's an interesting statement given the widespread practice of paying a bride price or dowry for ones marriage partner. The practice is/was common practice in tribes around the world, including 19th century Native American tribes, which suggests the presence of private property. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:15, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

Tribalism--the whole entry needs a rewrite/research.[edit]

I've always been intrigued by tribal culture. When I looked up Tribalism on Wikipedia, I was disappointed to see that the bulk of human history has been reduced to a few underdeveloped paragraphs with no citations or sources.

I'm no expert, but I'll do my best to focus my attention to this entry during my free time. At the very least, we need to work together and get this entry into working order. Since I'm new to editing anything on Wikipedia, I wanted to bring it to the attention of professionals who can really develop this topic. Philanderson112914:55, 28 May 2010 (UTC)14:55, 28 May 2010 (UTC)14:55, 28 May 2010 (UTC)Phil Anderson

The way WP works is basically that the only way to get something done is to do it yourself. If you think the article needs more content then add some yourself, if it needs references that find some, if you think unreferenced material is incorrect the remove it and, if you can, add correct and referenced material. Good luck! Martin Hogbin (talk) 22:02, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
Or you could post a message at WP:WikiProject Anthropology to see if there is anyone who can help you. There should be people around with access to good university texts that deal with this topic. Itsmejudith (talk) 16:36, 3 June 2010 (UTC)


I don't think the article suffers from a lack of neutrality so much as a lack of perspective. I just changed a sentence at Lao Issara from the Western-oriented phrase "peasant-dominated" to "tribalism|tribal-oriented" wikilinked to this article. It is the best we have at present to explain such an orientation. For a broader perspective focused on how tribal groups interact in the rugged terrain of southern China and south and southeast Asia, see Zomia (geography). For how non-tribal power centers work, see Mandala (Southeast Asian history). Take time to read footnote 1, how maps made the world. Before that, something like the Mandala System prevailed in all civilized (i.e., city-fied) countries. Keep in mind that dynastic interests, while not exactly the same thing, nevertheless closely parallel tribal interests. The point made in Zomia geography is that a great many people prefer being beyond the reach of Mandalic or dynastic power, or to seek areas where these overlap, where they form themselves into actual or simulated tribal groups (like gangs and organized crime.) The related article on Zomia may not be a good one, and is laced with POVs, but it gives a good example of a tribal group inventing and preserving itself. --Pawyilee (talk) 10:11, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

removing POV tag with no active discussion per Template:POV[edit]

I've removed an old neutrality tag from this page that appears to have no active discussion per the instructions at Template:POV:

This template is not meant to be a permanent resident on any article. Remove this template whenever:
  1. There is consensus on the talkpage or the NPOV Noticeboard that the issue has been resolved
  2. It is not clear what the neutrality issue is, and no satisfactory explanation has been given
  3. In the absence of any discussion, or if the discussion has become dormant.

Since there's no evidence of ongoing discussion, I'm removing the tag for now. If discussion is continuing and I've failed to see it, however, please feel free to restore the template and continue to address the issues. Thanks to everybody working on this one! -- Khazar2 (talk) 01:28, 22 June 2013 (UTC)