Heide Göttner-Abendroth (born February 8, 1941 in Langewiesen, Germany) is a German feminist advocating Matriarchy Studies (also Modern Matriarchal Studies), focusing on the study of matriarchal or matrilineal societies.
Göttner-Abendroth was born during World War II, and at the age of 12 moved with her parents from East Germany to West Germany. She has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Munich (1973). She became active in second wave feminism from 1976 and came to be considered one of the pioneers of women's studies in West Germany.
Göttner-Abendroth worked as a Reader in philosophy at Munich University in the 1970s, but, due to her activism and harsh criticism of her academic work, she quit and became an independent scholar, founding the International Academy for Modern Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality (HAGIA) in 1986. She received a scholarship from the University of Bremen in 1992. Her own account of the lack of acceptance of her Matriarchal Studies in mainstream academia was published as Die Diskriminierung der Matriarchatsforschung. Eine moderne Hexenjagd "the discrimination of Matriarchal Studies - a modern witch-hunt" in 2003.
Göttner-Abendroth's "International Academy for Modern Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality" (HAGIA) was founded in 1986. It aims to combine the "intellectual, political, artistic, and spiritual" in its events.
Modern Matriarchal Studies stands in the tradition of 1970s second wave feminism, pioneered by Merlin Stone's When God Was a Woman. Feminist theories of matriarchy remained current throughout the 1970s, and in German scholarship during the 1980s. Göttner-Abendroth has continued to publish on the topic into the 2000s, and has organized two World Congresses on Matriarchal Studies, in 2003 and 2005.
Göttner-Abendroth defines Modern Matriarchal Studies as the "investigation and presentation of non-patriarchal societies", and matriarchies as "non-hierarchical, horizontal societies of matrilineal kinship", effectively defining matriarchy as "non-patriarchic matrilineal societies". She has also defined matriarchy as characterized by the sharing of power equally between the two genders, an egalirarian model. By Göttner-Abendroth's definition, a matriarchal society is equivalent to an "egalitarian and peaceful society". Such societies aren't described as "matriarchal" in mainstream anthropology, but as matrilineal. Mainstream anthropology considers "male dominance in the public or political realm" a human cultural universal and has abandoned the 19th century notion of "primitive" matriarchies in favour of discussion of matrilineality and matrilocality, forms of societies that are actually on record. Göttner-Abendroth defends this departure from the usual meaning of the -archy suffix as using it in its etymological meaning of ἀρχή 'beginning', according to which matriarchy would not mean 'rule of mothers' but 'at the beginning the mothers'. However, Greek ἀρχή has the double meaning of 'beginning, origin' and 'rule, dominion', and the -archy suffix originates with -ἀρχία, which has the meaning of 'leadership, rule' exclusively, as in ἀν-αρχία 'lack of a leader, lawlessness, anarchy'.
- The Goddess and Her Heros. Matriarchal Religion in Mythology, Fairy-Tales and Poetry. Anthony Publishing Company, Stow USA 1995. (Die Göttin und ihr Heros – a study in matriarchal religion, Verlag Frauenoffensive, Munich 1980-1997.)
- The Dancing Goddess. Principles of a Matriarchal Aesthetic. Beacon Press, Boston USA 1991. (Die tanzende Göttin Verlag Frauenoffensive, Munich 1982-2001.)
- Für die Musen, Verlag Zweitausendeins, Frankfurt 1988-1999.
- Für Brigida, Verlag Zweitausendeins, Frankfurt 1998 and 2000.
- Das Matriarchat, vol I, history of research on matriarchy, Verlag Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1988-1995;
- Das Matriarchat, vol II 1, contemporary matriarchal societies in East Asia, Indonesia, Oceania, Verlag Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1991 und 1999;
- Das Matriarchat, vol II 2, contemporary matriarchal societies in America, India, Africa Verlag Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2000.
- Inanna. Gilgamesch. Isis. Rhea, Verlag Ulrike Helmer, Königstein 2004.
- Fee Morgane. Der Heilige Gral, Verlag Ulrike Helmer, Königstein 2005.
- Frau Holle. Das Feenvolk der Dolomiten, Verlag Ulrike Helmer, Königstein 2005.
- Matriarchat in Südchina – matriarchy in South China, Verlag Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1998; film documentary: Im Matriarchat der Mosuo – matriarchy of the Mosuo, Academy Hagia, 1993.
- with Kurt Derungs, Matriarchate als herrschaftsfreie Gesellschaften (1997) ISBN 978-3-905581-01-0
- Werlhof Claudia von et al., Die Diskriminierung der Matriarchatsforschung. Eine moderne Hexenjagd. Edition Amalia, Berne (2003).
- International Academy HAGIA for Modern Matriarchal Studies, as accessed Feb. 6, 2011.
- 1st World Congress on Matriarchal Studies, also known as Societies in Balance, both as accessed Jan. 29, 2011.
- Societies of Peace: 2nd World Congress on Matriarchal Studies (home page), as accessed Jan. 29, 2011.
- Mukhim, Patricia, Khasi Matriliny Has Many Parallels, Oct. 15, 2005 (review of conferences, esp. 2005, by a participant), as accessed Feb. 6, 2011 (also published in The Statesman (India), Oct. 15, 2005).
- DeMott, Tom, The Investigator (review of Bennholdt-Thomsen, Veronika, Cornelia Giebeler, Brigitte Holzer, & Marina Meneses, Juchitán, City of Women (Mexico: Consejo Editorial, 1994)), as accessed Feb. 6, 2011.
- Matriarchal Studies (International Academy HAGIA), as accessed Jan. 30, 2011.
- Donald Brown (1991) Human Universals. Philadelphia, Temple University Press (online summary).