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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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The account of indigenous matriarchal societies begins in Northeast India and gen- erally follows the same path taken by matriarchal cultures in the earliest times: beginning in the central mountains of East Asia, abundant with water, down toward the southeast and east, and on to the Pacific region. A specific hypothesis regarding their historical spread is not related to this general arrangement of the book, and is beyond of its scope. This first section is particularly dedicated to the characteristics of the inter- nal social and cultural patterns of matriarchal societies. The general outlines and particular variability of these characteristics will be derived step by step from analysis of individual matriarchal societies and cultures. The East Asian region lends itself especially well to this, as it still has some indigenous matriarchal societies that coherently demonstrate the full range of matriarchal patterns. This is not to say that, over their long history, they have not been distorted by centuries of patriar- chal oppression; but these super-impositions can be historically pinpointed and are easily discernible. For the same reason, I begin with the matriarchal societies of Northeast India. Until recently, they have held onto their classic matriarchal traits; today their matriarchal patterns are in rapid decline—a fate that almost all extant matriarchal PART I Indigenous Matriarchal Societies in Eastern Asia, Indonesia, and Oceania 2_Goettner_Abendroth ch 1 thru 5 NEW_t5 2/28/2012 9:56 AM Page 43 societies are confronted with today. It should not confuse the reader, that in...

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