In the blog post where I recorded my notes on the Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex I mentioned that I remembered reading about how uncles rather than fathers were viewed as authority figures in some cultures, but I wasn’t sure where I had come across this. I have since looked for the reference and see that it was Malinowski who initially suggested that this was how he saw things in the Trobriand Islands, where society he said, was based on matrilineal lines rather than patrilineal. “Malinowski’s attempt to recast the Oedipus complex as culturally variable, though offered as a contribution to psychoanalytic theory, was not welcomed by Freud and his circle, who insisted in universality.” (Vine/New, 2008;14) I find the reluctance of Freud and his friends to see the possibility for cultural variables quite strange and confusing, especially as I am aware now that questions surrounding subjectivity had been around for a  long time by the time he was on the scene.(Thorsby, 2016)

So, I was completely justified in bringing this up it would seem. I searched for the reference after beginning to read about Lacan and the symbolic order, especially since in the Wiki entry, phrases pertaining to “The Father” (religious reference) were used as examples in discussing the symbolic order. I will discuss that more later when writing about Lacan.

I am also interested in how Lacan talks about ‘lack’ (which I read about at the beginning of the course), and see this can be seen as an alternative model to Freud’s castration anxiety. Don’t both descriptions relate to ways in which anxiety surrounding separation from the mother manifest themselves, viewed through different subjective veils? I will need to discuss this in much more detail I expect when writing about Lacan in the next projects. But this goes back to thoughts about how infants  in some cultures are encouraged to separate from their primary care-giver (usually the mother and in in biological terms always) relatively quickly, replaced by commodities, plastic and monetarily valuable, to do jobs that warm, fleshy and comforting bodies have done elsewhere. Perhaps ‘lack’ and castration anxiety (metaphorical or real) can be viewed as costs in relation to the benefits such choices allow for.

LeVine, R. and New, R. (2008). Anthropology and child development. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Thorsby, M, 2016. Youtube (user generated content – 1 February 2016) Video below accessed 11 September 2016

Image (c)SJFIeld 2016



2 thoughts on “Notes: Matrilineal societies/Father/symbolism – the mother

  1. Oh yes, you’re quite right. I have read a very interesting book about that which explores the romanticisation of childhood. I can’t locate it at the moment but will soon and update. Basically it ends with the message we need to stop treating our kids like imbeciles. I shall take a look at the link. Thank you


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