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Matriarchal Societies

Studies on Indigenous Cultures Across the Globe

Heide Göttner-Abendroth

This book presents the results of Heide Goettner-Abendroth’s pioneering research in the field of modern matriarchal studies, based on a new definition of «matriarchy» as true gender-egalitarian societies. Accordingly, matriarchal societies should not be regarded as mirror images of patriarchal ones, as they have never needed patriarchy’s hierarchical structures of domination. On the contrary, matriarchal patterns are socially egalitarian, economically balanced, and politically based on consensus decisions. They have been created by women and are founded on maternal values. This new perspective on matriarchal societies is developed step by step by the analysis of extant indigenous cultures in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.


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A Word on Matriarchy xv


The surge of popular and scholarly interest in non-patriarchal social patterns has inspired the formation of various new terms for them. Why insist on the some- times problematic designation, “matriarchy”? Reclaiming this term means to reclaim knowledge of societies that have been socially, economically, politically and culturally created by women. In the course of these cultures’ long histories, women and men have participated equally to sus- tain them and pass them on to future generations. For the moment, let this brief description serve as a guide. This book has been written with the aim of develop- ing a long-term definition that I hope will be useful for navigating a sea of mis- understandings about the term “matriarchy” itself, and the cultures it describes. Matriarchies are true gender-egalitarian societies; this applies to the social con- tribution of both sexes—and even though women are at the center, this principle governs the social functioning and freedom of both sexes. Matriarchal societies should emphatically not be regarded as mirror images of patriarchal ones—with dominating women instead of patriarchy’s dominating men—as they have never needed patriarchy’s hierarchical structures. Patriarchal domination, where a minor- ity emerges from wars of conquest and takes over a whole culture, depends for its power on structures of enforcement, private ownership, colonial rule, and religious conversion. Such patriarchal power structures are a historically recent development, A Word on Matriarchy 1_Goettner_Abendroth fm 3 Word on Matriarchy_t5 1/22/2012 12:11 PM Page xv not appearing until about...

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