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Kyriarchy is a social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression, and submission. The word is a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in 1992 to describe her theory of interconnected, interacting, and self-extending systems of domination and submission, in which a single individual might be oppressed in some relationships and privileged in others.[1] It is an intersectional extension of the idea of patriarchy[1] beyond gender. Kyriarchy encompasses sexism, racism, homophobia, economic injustice, and other forms of dominating hierarchies in which the subordination of one person or group to another is internalized and institutionalized.[2]


The term was coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza[3] in 1992 when she published her book But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation.[4] It is derived from the Greek words κύριος, kyrios, "lord, master" and ἄρχω archō, "to lead, rule, govern".[4][2] The word "kyriarchy" in Greek (Greek: κυριαρχία, kyriarchia, a valid formation, though it is not found in ancient Greek) can now be used to mean "sovereignty," i.e. the rulership of a sovereign.

Structural positions[edit]

Schüssler Fiorenza describes interdependent "stratifications of gender, race, class, religion, heterosexualism, and age" as structural positions assigned at birth.[4] She suggests that people inhabit several positions, and that positions with privilege become nodal points through which other positions are experienced.[4] For example, in a context where gender is the primary privileged position (e.g., patriarchy), gender becomes the nodal point through which sexuality, race, and class are experienced.[4] In a context where class is the primary privileged position (i.e., classism), gender and race are experienced through class dynamics.[4]

Tēraudkalns suggests that these structures of oppression are self-sustained by internalized oppression; those with relative power tend to remain in power, while those without tend to remain disenfranchised.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kwok, Pui-lan (2009). "Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Postcolonial Studies". Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Indiana University Press) 25 (1): 191–197. Retrieved 2011-05-12. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ a b c Tēraudkalns, Valdis (2003). "Construction of Masculinities in Contemporary Christianity". In Cimdiņa, Ausma. Religion and political change in Europe: past and present. PLUS. pp. 223–232. 
  3. ^ Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth (2001). "Glossary". Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation. New York: Orbis Books. Retrieved 2006-02-17. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth (2009). "Introduction: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Gender, Status and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies". In Nasrallah, Laura; Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Prejudice and Christian beginnings: investigating race, gender, and ethnicity in early Christian studies. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Retrieved 2011-05-12.