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Why Women Ruled: Explaining the Rise and Persistence of Female Rule in Pre-colonial Southeast Asia and Madagascar (WhyWomenRuled)
Start date: Aug 1, 2011, End date: Apr 30, 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

There are only a handful of known examples in all of world history in which female rule has been institutionalized in the sense that a line of consecutive, or near consecutive, women rulers have exercised formal authority over an independent or semi-independent state and where female rule seems to have been widely accepted by contemporary society as being the “normal” or desirable order of things. The project compares three such, relatively well-documented but little studied and understood, cases of institutionalized female rule in the pre-colonial history of the Malayo-Polynesian world: Patani (presently in southern Thailand) c. 1584–1694, Aceh (presently in western Indonesia) 1641–99 and Imerina (central Madagascar) 1828–96. Combining the two approaches of comparative history (histoire comparée) and entangled history (histoire croisée), the project aims to: 1) explain why female rule was established and institutionalized in each of the three polities; 2) understand what, if any, political and social difference it made that the ruler was a woman rather than a man; 3) explain why royal power under female rule in all three cases gradually declined and eventually was suspended; and 4) to contribute to an enhanced theoretical understanding of the sexual and gendered dimensions of political power and leadership in world history. A broad range of first-hand, published and unpublished, contemporary sources are used and interpreted hermeneutically, comparatively and from a historical-anthropological perspective in order to answer the questions at issue.
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