Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy / Edition 1

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Contrary to the declarations of some anthropologists, matriarchies do exist. Peggy Reeves Sanday first went to West Sumatra in 1981, intrigued by reports that the matrilineal Minangkabau—one of the largest ethnic groups in Indonesia—label their society a matriarchy. Numbering some four million in West Sumatra, the Minangkabau are known in Indonesia for their literary flair, business acumen, and egalitarian, democratic relationships between men and women. Sanday uses her repeated visits to West Sumatra in the closing decades of the twentieth century as the basis for a new definition of matriarchy. From the vantage point of daily life in villages, especially one where she developed close personal ties, Sanday's narrative is centered on how the Minangkabau conceive of their world and think humans should behave, along with the practices and rituals they claim uphold their matriarchate. Women at the Center leaves the reader with a solid sense of the respect for women that permeates Minangkabau culture, and gives new life to the concept of matriarchy.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is an accessible study delivering vivid and personal descriptions of the importance of women to the everyday workings of Minang life."—Maila Stivens, University of Melbourne, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2004

"Women at the Center is an argument against the polarizations implicit in the old studies of power and gender. The Minangkabau, Sanday shows us, have thrown out polarity and subjugation and brought in a society modeled on 'conjugation.' What makes them so remarkable is that they are at once wholly, authentically matriarchal and also determinedly Islamic."—Women's Review of Books, October 2002

"In this densely detailed and painstakingly researched book, Sanday makes no bones about her contention that the Minangkabau are truly a living—and thriving—matriarchal society. . . Women at the Center deserves to be read and studied widely for bringing something breathtakingly new and exciting to the forefront of anthropology and gender studies."—Silja J.A. Talvi, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 29 December 2002

"This fascinating, richly documented work is an invaluable contribution not only to anthropology but to a better understanding of human possibilities. It dispels the notion that society always has been and always will be male dominated. It shows that societies where women have power are not mirror images of patriarchy but societies where both women and men benefit from an ethos of peace and accommodation The importance of these findings cannot be overemphasized in a world where relations based on domination rather than partnership threaten us, our children, and our future."—Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and The Blade and The Power of Partnership

"Peggy Sanday has long been a dissenting voice in the debates about the universality of male dominance. This pioneering feminist anthropologist now gives substance to her arguments, redefining matriarchy and revealing the power of maternal symbols through an accessible ethnography of a famous matrilineal community."—Lila Abu-Lughod, Anthropology and Women's Studies, Columbia University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801489068
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Coming Home, 1996 1
I "Nature Is Our Teacher"
1 Adat Matriarchaat as a World View 15
2 The Divine Queens 32
II Discovering Belubus
3 Looking toward Mt. Merapi 51
4 Diversity in Daily Life 63
III Celebrating Life
5 Discovering Adat Ibu 79
6 Eggi Becomes Minangkabau 87
7 Exchanging Husbands and Bananas 100
8 Negotiating Marriage 118
9 Getting Married 131
10 Songs and the Performance of Desire 149
IV How Men Uphold Matrilineal Adat
11 Being and Becoming a Penghulu 173
12 Death of a Penghulu, Reprimand of Another 188
V Millennial Musings
13 Adat in the Twenty-first Century 207
14 Redefining Matriarchy 225
Notes 241
Glossary 255
Bibliography 261
Index 267
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