Friday, 22 April 2011

Friday Feminist - Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Cross posted

Kyriarchy – a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination. Kyriarchy is a socio-political system of domination in which elite educated propertied men hold power over wo/men and other men. Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.

Patriarchy – Literally means the rule of the father and is generally understood within feminist discourses in a dualistic sense as asserting the domination of all men over all women in equal terms. The theoretical adequacy of patriarchy has been challenged because, for instance, black men do not have control over white wo/men and some women (slave/mistresses) have power over subaltern women and men (slaves).

From the glossary of Wisdom Ways. The glossary was prepared by Laura Beth Bugg.

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Wisdom Ways, 2001

As far as I can tell, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza first used the term, kyriarchy, in Bread, Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation, first published in 1985, republished in 1995. I will try to track it down, hopefully for a future Friday Feminist.


Faye said...
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Anonymous said...

Am I wrong or does the following mean the same as the words in the first past of the post? The deletion of the last sentence because it has no meaning is a part of my effort.

Kyriarchy – Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenzaa made up this new word from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein). She wanted a word to use in analysis other than 'patriarchy'. She wanted this new word to include the many linked ways in hich domination can happen. By 'Kyriarchy' she means the way elite educated rich men hold power over women and other men.


SPC said...

It can be argued that patriarchy is of an attempt to sustain a heirarchy/autocracy/plutocracy via building in the concept of a universal male supremacy - something for the common man to be part of. Once there is something in the establishement system for the many they are more likely to celebrate its status and support its continuance.

As a point of reference, when a further extension of the franchise was proposed in the UK, one of the Tories said they would benefit from it and they had nothing to fear. He realised that when the working class got the vote the enfracnhised middle class would turn their meritocracy drive against the privilege of the upper class onto the have nots to defend their own comparitive position.

The working class/employed non professional wage worker position within (capitalist) democracy was held by women in the age of patriarchal autocracy.

Priya said...

So she's basically renaming the concept of patriarchy? Patriarchy is an over-arching concept. Anthropologically speaking it is the first large scale set of discriminatory events to occur (bar domestication, which, if we want to be correct, patriarchy falls under) in human societies making a cultural shift - hence it's use as a root concept. In radical discourse racism, homophobia, classism, agism, ableism, etc are all part of patriarchy as defined as a value system that supports power over life and control over pleasure (from Marilyn French, Riane Eisler, and others).

Also, her two examples at the end are odd, the first is relevant but the second one is an exception that proves the rule. Some oppressed peoples are allowed to hang out with oppressors if they abide by the rules, this is a well known phenomena within all discrimination and not itself a refutation of a concept.

Hugh said...

Priya, if patriarchy is so much more complicated than the simple domination of men over women, perhaps it needs renaming?

Priya said...

Patriarchy has never been about 'simple male domination over women' and especially not on a homogeneous level, as Fiorenza seems to assert. Radical feminists have been saying so since the 70's and Marx pointed it out a hell of a lot earlier.

Hugh said...

I understand that Priya, but my point is that given how multidimensional it is, giving it a name with a root that's concerned only with masculinity seems inappropriate. I do agree that if we embrace the term "kyriarchy" then there's little reason for patriarchy to exist as a separate term (except perhaps in its original, narrower meaning specifically referring to fatherly authority within a family group).

Priya said...

Generally when you critique structures you critique from the root. Because structures are not natural, because patriarchy is the first example and the father of other structures, it is defined in radical theory as not just the domination of women and children but as the domination of nature - placing all other constructs that arise directly from it under its paternal wing. In order to have structures like racism, classism, etc, that are self perpetuating, you need symbolic activities to support it via a positive feedback loop - the 'arts', religion, etc. Symbolic culture does not appear until the concepts of gender and the sexual division of labour are under way (in anthropology the existence of ritual literally marks any observance of sexual subordination), and gender is the first construct to appear in things like cave drawings.

Patriarchy is an apt title: it 'sowed the seeds' of further inequality. My original point wasn't actually against renaming it, however, just against the fact that the call to rename is arising from the fact that it's being misunderstood and misrepresented as the anthropological definition as opposed to the radical one. Consequently it makes me confused as to why, when we're working with a radical feminist frame-work, we'd be using the reference of an entirely different subject.

SPC said...

When God is the ultimate authority and is portrayed as male, as if this is mutually self-evident, and the institutions of the culture involve a male priesthood and the anointing of a man as King (primogeniture of the eldest male child or the more extreme Salic law variant), there is a patriarchy to the authoritarianism of the institutions of the society. This is simplified when we are instructed to call God father and an all male priesthood seeks to claim its authority to act in place of this God by being identified with the same term. Formerly many rulers would pose as a son of a god, the descendant of gods or the descendant of the created son of a god.