The Head Man Was a Woman by Kirk Endicott and Karen Endicott – Book Report/Review Example

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The paper "The Head Man Was a Woman by Kirk Endicott and Karen Endicott" is an inspiring example of a book review on anthropology. “ The Head Man was a Woman: The Gender Egalitarian Batek of Malaysia” is an ethnography written by anthropology authors Kirk Endicott and Karen Endicott. It is a vivid and comprehensive ethnography of the Batek community, one of the small numbers of remaining hunters and gatherers in South Asia (Endicott and Endicott 2008, 5). This ethnography thus brings out concepts of gender, roles as well as relations of the Batek people.

Based on the authors’ fieldwork carried over a long period of time, they describe in their book, the lives of the Batek community with discussions focusing on their social organization, gender, cultural persistence, religious activities and hunting and gathering (Endicott and Endicott 2008, 9). Purpose of the Study This paper thus seeks to evaluate and study gender egalitarianism and how an indigenous community, the Batek community, has enormously thrived and progressed in gender relations. Their measure of progress has surpassed that of the western world that is often described as speciously constructed.

The title of the book “ The Head Man was a Woman” could not get any more precise in demonstrating the main issue discussed by the authors that gender egalitarianism flourishes among the Batek community of Malaysia. Theoretical Aspects of the Ethnography Throughout the book, the authors articulate in a clear and orderly manner, that the system of the Batek people was not controlled by sex nor was one sex considered culturally superior to the other. Arguments to support this can be attributed to six factors that the authors clearly bring out; (1) the Batek people were economically independent, (2) authority was highly decentralized, and (3) nonviolence was the highly regarded principle (Endicott and Endicott 2008, 13).

By applying the Western framework of dependence for purposes of comparison, the authors demonstrated that the Batek women-led highly independent life and did not depend on their male counterparts. Despite these dynamics, some sociologists and anthropologists are of the opinion that the persistence of egalitarian systems such as the Batek’ s, have been as a result of such systems becoming more of defining devices drawing a definite line between a subjugated group and a dominant group (Endicott and Endicott 2008, 22).

The authors, however, construct a theory that justifies their explanation that the Batek community has over the years developed their own egalitarian system. The authors go further to reject the concept that the Malays, Batek neighboring community, were more than capable of dominating the Batek people (Endicott and Endicott 2008, 36). According to them, the emergence of the Batek egalitarian principles was a way of trying to satisfy their environmental and social niche that sustained their nonviolent way of life.  


Endicott, Kirk, and Endicott, Karen. The Headman was a Woman: The Gender Egalitarian Batek of Malaysia. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2008

Evens, Terry. Anthropology as Ethics: Nondualism and the Conduct of Sacrifice. New York: Berghahn Books, 2013

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Yeoh, Seng-Guan. Rev. of “The headman was a woman: The Gender Egalitarian Batek of Malaysia” by Kirk Endicott, Karen L. Endicott. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15, no. 3 (2009): 672-673

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