21 Jun 2023

the question of male domination: angela saini

I’m wondering if you can talk to us about why this book, and why now, and also what you think that feminists can or should learn from this about politics today.

Well, the reason I wanted to write this book was — as I was saying earlier — when I wrote Inferior I had a chapter in there on male domination. And, you know, anthropologists would repeatedly say We haven’t always been male-dominated like this, there are matrilineal societies, there is more variation. And the question that readers kept asking me in 2017 was, Well how did we come to this then? If we weren’t always male-dominated, then why are we male-dominated now? And I did not have a good answer to that question. Because, remarkably, the literature isn’t very big on this question. You know, the last big historical text looking at the creation of patriarchy was Gerda Lerner’s, um, The Creation of Patriarchy, which was about 40 years ago. And we know a lot more since then, we’ve learnt so much more, especially through archaeology. And also through genetics — we have some really good evidence from ancient DNA. So this is a kind of holistic question on so many fronts; so it wasn’t the political moment that wanted me to write it, it was just that I was so bothered by that question — that I didn’t have a good answer to it, that even when I googled it, it was so little that, we have these piecemeal, you know, we have Engels and we have feminist literature on capital, on the state, on, you know, bits of it, little bits of it, but not bringing it together. And I’m not pretending that I’ve brought everything together, I haven’t. But I just wanted to at least start to answer that question for myself, and start to get a handle on it. And it really has changed how I think about power now.

An audience member’s question to Angela Saini, visiting the London School of Economics last month to talk about The Patriarchs, her book released in February, with Saini’s reply relating consciousness of her participation in historiographical shift that seems to be under way in our time. Her book is billed as a sort of companion to 2021’s The Dawn of Everything by Davids Graeber and Wengrow.

H/T Annalee Newitz — whose post is a couple of weeks old, but I’m just catching up.

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