In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Chapter Two Historical Circumstances and Biological Proclivities Surrounding Patriarchy Naomi Quinn In this chapter, I argue that the particular historic formation we call patriarchy is built on certain universal human proclivities. These propensities are not universally realized, however, and not all human societies are patriarchal. Patriarchy came to fruition in the context of a specific set of structural circumstances that pertained across Asia and Europe, in what I think of as the patriarchal arc, from Japan to the British Isles, including all of the settler colonies and the many contexts into which colonial rule—and, with it, patriarchy—have been introduced.1 The two human proclivities I think are most fundamentally implicated in patriarchy are deference and familism. In order to describe how they are so implicated , I first have to say more about the extent and shape of patriarchy itself and the circumstances giving rise to this historic formation in some human societies. Together, these particular human proclivities and these particular historical circumstances set the stage for patriarchy. My chapter, with its evolutionary and materialist tilt, may seem out of place in this volume. However, I take up the burden of laying groundwork for the ethnographic chapters to follow. The ethnographic chapters are informed by their authors’ close and revealing present-day fieldwork. These contributors do not, for the most part, historicize this ethnography or put it in an evolutionary context. But to fully understand these individual stories about patriarchy, its persistence, and the turns it has taken, the larger historical and evolutionary context is necessary. The Extent of Patriarchy My argument for the extent of patriarchy bears a strong family resemblance to that made by Deniz Kandiyoti, a scholar of gender relations, politics, and 31 economic development in the Middle East, in a dazzling paper. Kandiyoti (1988) contrasts what she terms “the sub-Saharan African pattern” of patriarchy— which I elect not to label patriarchy at all, in order to avoid diluting the term beyond usefulness—with “classic patriarchy,” which she locates in South and East Asia and the Middle East. At first blush, these regional limits to the extent of classic patriarchy may appear to be much more restrictive than my own designation of a patriarchal arc reaching across all of Asia and Europe and beyond. Kandiyoti (1988) considers that, historically, patriarchy has broken down in many places, even as it has fostered a female conservative reaction. That her description of it, like mine, recognizes the historic reach of patriarchy beyond Asia and the Middle East is implicit in her acknowledgment that historical parallels to patriarchal breakdown “may be found in very different contexts, such as the industrialized societies of Western Europe and the United States” (Kandiyoti 1988, 283). That its vestiges, which she views as reactive female conservatism, live on in the latter societies suggests that patriarchy was in full force at one time in their histories or those of their colonizers. Elsewhere in her article Kandiyoti (1988, 278) provides another clue to the extent of patriarchy across Eurasia when she notes in passing that the forms of control and subordination common to classic patriarchy “cut across cultural and religious boundaries, such as those of Hinduism, Confucianism, and Islam”— to which she might have added Christianity. I hope that she would agree with me that patriarchy once cut a continuous swath across all of Asia and Europe, including but not limited to the Middle East and parts of Asia. Women’s Accommodation to Patriarchy However widespread across human societies some type or degree of male dominance or attempted dominance may be, what is especially distinctive of patriarchy is that women accommodate to being so dominated. As Kandiyoti (1988, 278) notes, her examples of African “women’s open resistance” stand in stark contrast to women’s accommodations to classic patriarchy. In the southern Ghanaian case that I know best, men do attempt to assert their domination over others, including their wives and other women, and this is the case even in matrilineal societies. Nevertheless, women will have none of it, and the result appears to be a continuous war of the sexes. North of the Sahara, women’s accommodation to male dominance, a defining feature of patriarchy, amounts to 32Quinn “their active collusion in the reproduction of their own subordination” (Kandiyoti 1988, 280). Of course, there are exceptions to this broad dichotomy between Eurasia and Africa, on both sides of the Sahara. Kandiyoti offers insight as to why women’s accommodation to or collusion with male...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.