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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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In this second part the characteristics of matriarchal societies in our times will be further explained, in their general outlines and particular variability. The focus will be on, among other things, the large-scale forms of social and political orga- nization that matriarchies have developed. I explicitly refrain from using the term “state,” although these large-scale forms would indeed be examples of what we call “states”—refuting accusations that matriarchal societies are primitive in character because they failed to develop large-scale political institutions. The reason I do not call these large-scale forms “states” is that this concept is generally used in relation to patriarchal empires and nations, and is characterized by centralized domination, strict hierarchy, and a class system with its attendant oppression, and the use of armed force to maintain this precarious construct. All these attributes are untyp- ical for matriarchal large-scale forms of social and political organization—which are formed and held together by other powers. At the same time, there is great variation among matriarchal forms of politi- cal organization, as can be seen with the Iroquois Confederation in eastern North America, the Nayar society in South India, the realms of queen-kingship of Africa, particularly West Africa, and the political forms of the nomadic Tuareg in North Africa. PART II Indigenous Matriarchal Societies in the Americas, India, and Africa 5_Goettner_Abendroth ch 11 thru 15_t5 2/28/2012 10:05 AM Page 209 5_Goettner_Abendroth ch 11 thru 15_t5 2/28/2012 10:05 AM Page 210 For...

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