Kyriarchy

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The Greek word κύριος/kyrios means "lord or master". In this context, it refers to the power of dominant groups, whatever groups that might be, and to the structures that reinforce such power. Coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, the term Kyriarchy refers to a social system, or set of connecting social systems, that is built around dichotomous categorization of people, with domination of one group and the oppression & submission of the other.

For example men as a group having power over women as a group, or white people as a group having power over people of color as a group. These individual phenomena has been studied by feminist researchers under the name of patriarchy and by post-colonial researchers under the name of colonialism. The concept of Kyriarchy takes an intersectional approach to this phenomena, so that several power dynamics can be explored simultaneously: The same person may belong to the privileged group as well as the oppressed group. Strongly related concepts are “Cultural Imperialism” as used by by Iris Marion Young and “Symbolic Violence” as used by Pierre Bourdieu. Both talk about dominant groups using social reality to ensure their power of disempowered groups. In the categorism model, they are both included in the Kyriarchy facet, being regarded as simply different names for, and perhaps slightly different interpretations of, the same phenomenon. (In Swedish: kyriarkat)

Kyriarchy as a facet of categorism

Something is a facet of categorism when it on some level and based on a categorization of people is an expression of prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, or some combination thereof. Kyriarchy is in itself a matter of discrimination, as it makes it harder for people outside of the dominant groups to participate in society. It often also has prejudice and bigotry woven into it, as justifications for the discrimination. Kyriarchy also fuels other kinds of discimination, prejudice and bigotry.

Interactions with other facets and abstractions

This facet of categorism is an expression of: prejudice, bigotry and discrimination on the systemic, systemic, discursive and systemic levels. In some cases also the Legal level, and in the case of apartwelt even the international treaties level.

It is likely to intersect with facets such as:

  • Denial of agency: Dominant groups preventing people in subordinate groups from standing up for themselves. Such as mainstream society silencing the people in an ethnic minority. Or the mainstream within the minority group silencing women or GSM (gender and sexual minorities) people within the ethnic group.
  • Demonization or Infantilization: Bad traits gets constructed as associated with the underprivileged or oppressed category of people. Also, traits associated with the category gets constructed as bad. It goes both ways, and in both cases makes it harder for these people to succeed in society.
  • Internalized Categorism: When bad traits gets constructed as associated with the underprivileged or oppressed category of people, these traits sometimes becomes internalized and turned into a destructive identity.
  • Supremacism: Meanwhile, good traits gets constructed (and often internalized) as image (and self-image) of people in the dominant category.

As well as with abstractions such as:

  • Zero-category: Invisibilizing the fact that every person belongs to many categories.

Kyriarchy and foci of categorism

Examples of applying this facet to a particular foci of categorism can include:

  • Misogyny: The intersection between the facet kyriarchy and the focus misogyny is commonly known as "patriarchy", and here called by that name. (Note that while some people instead use the word in different ways, such as being a catch all term for all forms of structural misogyny, the word is here used simply as the intersexction between kyriarchy and misogyny.)
    • Individual level and group level: While patriarchy itself is too abstract for these levels, patriarchal structures, discourses, dogmas and so on can empower facets such as male supremacism and infantilization of women at the individual and group levels.
    • Systemic level: In a society where people systematically encounter almost exclusively men in positions of validated/unquestioned authority, their minds are likely to associate maleness with power and femaleness with lack of power.
    • Structural level: A society can have many kinds of structures holding women back. Such as social norms that blame women for having children or for not having children, disqualifying them from careers on the basis of having children or for perhaps maybe having children at some point in the future. Or for being "abnormal" by not having children or for not staying home with them.
    • Discursive level: Constructing the language so that it constructs women/femininity as being inferior and constructs the same behavior as being cool when a man does it but shameful when a woman does it. For example, constructing the same behavior as a boy being "assertive" and a girl being "bossy".
    • Dogmatic level: Religious theology or political ideology positioning women as being inherently inferior and/or inherently assigned to a subordinate position.
    • Law level: Most countries used to have laws that enshrined male dominance, such as allowing only men to vote or to run for office. Some countries still have some such rules.
    • International treaties level: If two or more nations have ever entered a treaty where they promised each other to hold women back and help each other to ensure male dominance, please send information about it!

in example texts

  • A frivolous arrest: As a person who belongs to two stigmatized categories (in this case women & people of color) is accused of belonging to a third stigmatized category (in this case sex workers), she is indirectly given a chance to save her dignity by distancing herself from this third category - thus contributing to the stigmatization and othering of "those people". This chance is presented not only to her as an individual, but to everyone who want to defend the dignity of the first two categories.