News Reports

Matriarchy and Islam Post 9/11: A Report from Indonesia
Published in Anthropology News, Vol. 43, No. 9, Dec. 2002, page 7.
by Peggy Reeves Sanday

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One of my passions as an anthropologist is to write ethnography that speaks simultaneously to anthropology by building empirically grounded conceptual frameworks and to the public by exploding outmoded Western stereotypes. My recently published ethnography of the Minangkabau presents a conceptual framework for rethinking matriarchy and challenges the stereotype of Islam as universally subordinating women. Among the largest and most modern of Indonesia’ s ethnic groups (four million in their home province West Sumatra and four million elsewhere) the Minangkabau are well known in Indonesia for their “matriarchal” social system and dedication to Islam.
The book, Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy (2002), focuses on a complex of customs called adat matriarchaat. These customs include matrilineal descent and women’ s ceremonial roles. Adat matriarchaat is part of the pre-Islamic cultural tradition called adat Minangkabau. Because of the degree to which the Minangkabau tie adat to Islam in the modern period, I was challenged to explain how the supposedly patriarchal Islam came to be bound to a social system identified as matriarchal. [More…]

Report from Indonesia
October, 1998
by Peggy Reeves Sanday

What newspapers and TV don’t tell you…
With a passion I had never heard in his voice, Hok, my Chinese hairdresser of many years said: “Oh Bu, write about how it’s safe here, not like CNN says, people starving, looting, and robbing. We are losing tourism and investment due to the belief that the situation in Jakarta applies to all of Indonesia.”
His plea was later echoed in the highland village where I have worked as an anthropologist studying the Minangkabau people nearly every year since l981. “Why does the Voice of America report that the situation in Indonesia is so bad?” one man asked.

I arrived in Padang, the capital city of the province of West Sumatra, Indonesia on July 17, some two months after the May riots in Jakarta brought President Suharto’s 35-year regime to a grinding halt. [More…]