New M.A. program in soc. anthro

Tracy Brown (tbrown@ACPUB.DUKE.EDU)
Sat, 26 Feb 1994 09:34:52 -0500

I'd just like to respond to Bob Graber's discussion on matriarchy and
patriarchy. Patriarchy is really not, if we want to quibble over terms,
simply men dominating public life. It really means "rule of the father":
that property is passed through the male head of a nuclear family as we
know it. It is a term that better describes European or Western societies
through time. There are, in fact, societies where men dominated public
life, but cannot be described as patriarchal -- Irene Silverblatt makes
just this point in her discussion of gender relations in the Inca state in
Moon, Sun and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Peru. Men did have
power over women, but girls inherited property /land from their mothers,
boys from their fathers.

As for Maureen Korp's comment that the terms matriarchy and patriarchy
aren't used that much in the anthropological literature, I think she needs
to clarify which literature she is referring to. I think she'd have much
better luck finding discussions of these issues if she read some feminist
anthropology. As Bob Graber pointed out in his message, matriarchies have
never existed -- that may be why Maureen hasn't seen the term used that
much. But as for patriarchy -- this is a concern of feminist
anthropologists, though maybe less so now than in the seventies. Studying
patriarchy and searching for matriarchies was a big deal in the seventies,
because many feminist anthropologists were searching for ways to explain
the origins of women's opression. Maureen should look at Rosaldo and
Lamphere's Woman Culture and Society or Reiter's Toward and Anthropology
of Women to see how the issues of matriarchy and patriarchy were handled
by early feminist anthropologists.

Tracy Brown