1st Edition

Matriliny and Modernity Sexual Politics and Social Change in Rural Malaysia

By Maila Stivens Copyright 1996

    Matriliny and Modernity (1996) explores the situation both past and present of women living in the matrilineal society of Negeri Sembilan in a rapidly modernising Malaysia. Written from a feminist anthropological viewpoint, it considers how far both the colonial and post-colonial remakings of matrilineal cultural practices within modernity have left women with what many western feminists would call a degree of social agency if not autonomy. Maila Stivens looks critically at the appropriateness of such judgements, at the same time reflecting on the ways that western knowledge production and the continuing importance of images of exotic matriarchies in the western imagination have shaped debates about such societies. As well as appealing to those with an interest in issues of gender-and-development, Asian Studies and women’s situation in modernising societies, the book’s explanation of the past and present of relatively more egalitarian gender arrangements also contributes to wider debates about causes of sexual inequality and the possibilities for gender equality.

    Introduction: A Modern Malaysian Matriliny.  1. People and Places  2. Past and Present I: Gender and the Remaking of Adat Perpatih  3. Past and Present II: Gender and the Remaking of Rembau Peasant Economy  4. Gender and a Marginal Village Economy I: Women of Property  5. Gender and a Marginal Village Economy II: Local Production and Income  6. Gender, Work and Inequality in Rembau  7. Rembau Femininities  8. Modernising Kinship and Family in Contemporary Rembau.  Conclusion: Female Autonomy in Rembau?


    Maila Stivens is Principal Research Fellow at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Previously Director of Gender Studies at Melbourne, she studied anthropology at the London School of Economics, and has also taught at University College, London, and the National University of Singapore (NUS), as well as holding fellowships at NUS and the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex. She has published widely on her research which has included studies of middle-class kinship in Sydney; 'matriliny’, gender relations and modernity, and work and family in Malaysia; childhood in Southeast Asia; ‘family values’; and, latterly, asylum seeker issues in Australia.