“The Matrixial Foundation of Maternal Cultural Meanings in Myth and Ritual”
Keynote Presentation, ASWM 2017 Symposium
“In my long term study of and stay with the matrilineal Minangkabau of West Sumatra, Indonesia—off and on between the years l981 and 2007—I found that women have a social value and structural importance in the historical continuity of their culture that is observable today in their individual autonomy and collective identity. The same is true of adult men, who reside with their wives while carrying out life-long social responsibilities to their maternal family. This matrilineal society tends toward gender equality rather than gender (including male) dominance.
“The question I raise in this presentation is: What encourages the relative stability of this and other matrilineal egalitarian socio-cultural systems?
“I address this question by reference to the symbolic similarities in the origin stories of selected matrilineal societies including the Minangkabau and the matrilineal Mosuo of China, whom I visited briefly at the end of 2016. In doing so I introduce a new term–“Matrixial”–that was coined by the Israeli scholar/artist Bracha Ettinger.
“This term challenges Freud’s concept of ” the “phallic” as a universal phase in psycho-social development. (If this were the case, all societies should be male dominant, but as I have shown elsewhere they are not.) Ettinger’s concept helps us to appreciate the tremendous variation in human socio-cultural systems along with environment, history, food source and other factors, which have a profound impact on the organization of societies and on cross-cultural understandings.”