Theory of matrilineal societies is more relevant today than ever but relies too often on nineteenth century views. Nicole Mathieu challenged these narrow ideas by introducing person, ritual, myth, and even worldview into a field that was centred on kinship. This panel will explore these new vistas.
Since Nicole Mathieu edited 'Une maison sans fille est une maison morte. La personne et le genre en sociétés matrilinéaires et/ou uxorilocales' (2007), the first noteworthy anthropological comparative study in matrilineal studies in a quarter of a century, the scholars with whom she collaborated continued to explore a field that had been for too long neglected. It became obvious that, worldwide, the theoretical framework of such exploration was suffering from major gaps and discontinuities, and was entangled in unexamined biases and ideological positions. Mathieu's unexpected death (2014) interrupted a global collaborative project intended to unite scholars and to demonstrate the theoretical potential of matrilineal studies and the breadth of needed ethnographic data. Most ethnographic studies produced in the past forty years have explored the effect of challenging economic, political and religious conditions on matrilineality, but without questioning the theoretical foundations of the field.
Today, we are faced with an array of issues that are complex and exciting. The panel will include presentations defining terminology, such as matrilineality, matricentricity, gynocracy, matriarchy, and, most recently, matriculture, together with ethnographic studies of their lived manifestation (past and present). Among others, we are interested in matrilocality, enculturation and transmission of indigenous knowledge, the shift from husband and wife to brother and sister as the primordial couple, even critical review of the notion of domesticity. We are less interested in the definition and measurement of female power, than in modes of participation of the different genders in their community as a whole.