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July 31 , 2008

Kinship to Kingship

Gender Hierarchy and State Formation in the Tongan Islands


Have women always been subordinated? If not, why and how did women’s subordination develop? Kinship to Kingship was the first book to examine in detail how and why gender relations become skewed when classes and the state emerge in a society. Using a Marxist-feminist approach, Christine Ward Gailey analyzes women’s status in one society over three hundred years, from a period when kinship relations organized property, work, distribution, consumption, and reproduction to a class-based state society. Although this study focuses on one group of islands, Tonga, in the South Pacific, the author discusses processes that can be seen through the neocolonial world. This ethnohistorical study argues that evolution from a kin-based society to one organized along class lines necessarily entails the subordination of women. And the opposite is also held to be true: state and class formation cannot be understood without analyzing gender and the status of women. Of interest to students of anthropology, political science, sociology, and women’s studies, this work is a major contribution to social history.

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