New film celebrates Goddesses, Gender and the Myth of Matriarchy

Hindu goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon Mahishasura
Hindu goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon Mahishasura

A Lancaster University lecturer features in a new film which unravels the traditions of goddesses, gender and 19th and 20th century 'myths' of matriarchy’.

Dr Bihani Sarkar, a Lecturer in Comparative Non-Western Thought, in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, speaks about the fascinating traditions of Indian goddesses and connections to ancient practices of heroic and royal power in a new video, ‘Goddesses, Gender and the Myth of Matriarchy’.

The film is launched today (June 24) at a three-day symposium at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and is part of ‘Global Genders: Pasts, Presents and Futures’, an AHRC-funded programme of public engagement events led by Professor Maria Misra, Professor of Global History at the University of Oxford.

The film will be shown at a display of ancient goddess sculptures called 'Demon, Mother, Kingmaker' at the Ashmolean. The display, accompanied by the film, will be on show until June 2025 in the Ancient Middle East Gallery.

Organised by Professor Misra in association with the Ashmolean Museum, the Asian Studies Centre, St Antony’s and TORCH and funded by UKRI/AHRC, the international conference brings together experts on gender across cultures from the ancient world, the present and its future-contours.

The film, which also features Professor Misra and Ashmolean curator Anja Ulbrich, addresses the relevance of ancient power-making goddesses from the Near East and India, such as Aphrodite, Cybele, Ishtar, Durgā and Kālī.

It shows how these divinities are multi-faceted and fluid, revealing in their wake a complex and changing narrative of how gender was historically perceived.

Drawing on representations of ancient gods and goddesses, the wider Global Gender and the Goddess research project brings to light the stories of gender through time and examines the myth of matriarchy.

More information about the conference can be found on

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