Kicking off the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies’ fall 2023 Speaker Series, the first guest speaker is Jamie Andreson, assistant teaching professor of history and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State, to present “Men and Matriarchy: Feminine Performances in Afro-Brazilian Religion.”
This talk presents key male leaders of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé to analyze men’s roles within a matriarchal religious structure. Candomblé is often characterized as a matriarchy because of the multi-generational leadership of Black priestesses and the adoration of African female deities. Yet the religion offers ample opportunities for male priests and initiates, many of whom identify as gay, to embrace and perform femininity. Because of these gendered dynamics, I argue that male priests too uphold the religion’s matriarchal structure. Works by the African feminist and philosopher Ifi Amadiume inspire the theoretical framework through an approach that examines gendered dynamics rather than a dichotomy or competition between patriarchal and matriarchal leadership.