Re: Matriarchy - Female dominated cultures

John J.Runnion (
Wed, 25 Oct 1995 15:45:51 GMT

On Mon, 23 Oct 1995 22:23:27 GMT, jake lewis
<> wrote:

>MCM@CityScape.Co.Uk (Peter Marsh) wrote:
>>I'm looking for info on any cultures which have demonstrable equity in
>>gender roles or where females occupy the higher status positions.
>>There was, apparently, a feature on CNN Asia concerning a
>>female-dominated society in part of China. They may be called the "Mu
>>Su" or something like that. Anybody know anything about this?
>>Dr Peter Marsh
>>MCM Research
>>27/28 St. Clements, Oxford. UK. OX4 1AB
>>Tel: +44 (0)1865 204211
>>Fax: +44 (0)1865 793137
>>EMail: MCM@CityScape.Co.Uk

>I didn't see the feature on CNN, but evidence of the culture
>you are looking for may be based around an archeological dig at
>Banpo near Xi'an in Shaanxi Provence in 1952. The site is
>thought to be 6000-7000 years old. I got this information
>in the "PreHistory" chapter in Chinese History published
>by Great Wall books. Quite how matriachy was derived from the
>dig was left unclear. It did however claim that Loa Tsu, the
>founder of Taoism, recommended a reversion back to
>Matriachy from the slave based economy of 1500bc China. There
>isn't much else in the book so don't waste any time hunting it

>Please post me if you come up with anything, particularly
>concerning origin of Taoism,
>Jake Lewis. Radical Anthropology Group, London.

It may be rather elementary nowadays to mention it, but I have always
had a sincere skepticism regarding the label "Matriarchy" when applied
to cultures which cannot be diachronically studied (that is, extinct
cultures). While there can be no question that Anthropology and
Ethnography have come a long way from the "ethnocentricity" of years
past, vestiges of it may still remain. The use of analytical
categories such as "Matriarchal" and "Patriarchal" must, in my
opinion, be scrutinized for the ethnic viability of such labels in a
culturally specific manner. Power dynamics and values are not always
similar across cultures and, therefore, such terms may not even apply
in a given culture. I would be interested in the methodology employed
in making a determination so culturally sensitive to a culture no
longer "living," and with no documentation extant. Even in cultures
which can be studied diachronically and with careful ethnographic
records available, the danger of superimposing cultural biases is
quite real. Often, the Hopi are classified as "Matriarchal," yet in
my own conversations with Hopi people the term is rejected as
immaterial and irrelevant because the individuals I spoke with do not
characterize "power" along the same lines of ownership and dominance
that Indo-europeans tend to. This is, of course, distinct from the
concept of "Matrilineal," which is a bit less difficult to determine.

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