Accepted Paper:

Mother-rights and mothers' brothers in the history of the Mosuo and Naxi people of Southwest China  


Christine Mathieu (Independent Scholar)

Paper short abstract:

Using an ethnohistorical perspective, this paper explores the role of kinship and the place of the Brother-Sister dyad in the transformation of Mosuo and Naxi societies into matrilineal and patrilineal feudal domains under Chinese and Tibetan indirect rules.

Paper long abstract:

While mid-twentieth century observers were struck by the gender differences and kinship oppositions (matrilineal/patrilineal) found among the Mosuo and the Naxi, contemporary ethnographers have highlighted the diversity of actual marriage, kinship, and residential practices among both people. Meanwhile, ethnohistorical research proposes to make sense of these oppositions and variations as politico-historical processes.

On the basis of ethnohistorical analyses, this paper proposes that matrilineality played a role in both Naxi and Mosuo political history, and that matrilineality has possible links to the Tang dynasty matriarchal Dong NĂ¼ Guo. However, research also strongly suggests that matrilineal-patrilineal Mosuo-Naxi oppositions do not originate in distinct and opposite lineage systems so much as in distinct marriage reforms which transformed a former clan based avunculate tribal system. Avunculate kinship, like matrilineal kinship, places essential value on Brother-Sister relations.

Panel RM-KG04
Naxi and Mosuo peoples in China and their Eastern Asian Neighbors