Kinship to Kingship

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Kinship to Kingship

Gender Hierarchy and State Formation in the Tongan Islands

By Christine Ward Gailey

The first book to examine in detail how and why gender relations become skewed when classes and the state emerge in a society.



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6 x 9 | 344 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72458-7

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.


Part One: The Quest for Origins
1. The Subordination of Women: Gender in Transitions from Kinship to Class
2. State Formation

Part Two: Gender and Kinship Relations in Precontact Tonga
3. Authority and Ambiguity: Rethinking Tongan Kinship
4. The Reproduction of Ambiguity: Succession Disputes, Marriage Patterns, and Foreigners
5. Division of Labor
6. Exchange and Value
7. Gender Relations at Contact

Part Three: Conversion, Commodities, and State Formation
8. Early Contact
9. Missionaries: The Crusade for Christian Civilization
10. A Native Kingdom: Creating Class and Gender Stratification
11. Changing Production: Commodities, Tribute, and Forced Labor
12. Dialectics of Class and State Formation

Appendix: Sources and Methods

Christine Ward Gailey is Professor of Women’s Studies and Anthropology at the University of California Riverside. Her research centers on gender hierarchies in the context of state dynamics, viewed comparatively and historically.

"Gailey has tacked with confidence and thoroughness a range of extremely challenging issues fundamental to feminist anthropology and Polynesian ethnography in a pioneering and ambitious analysis for which she is to be congratulated."
Journal of Polynesian Society

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