Carla Irene Risseeuw

1947 –
cultural and medical anthropology, gender, kinship and welfare studies
care for elders, ethnographic film
Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Europe

Curriculum vitae

1947born in The Hague on 2nd May
secondary education in The Hague and Paris
1970BA cultural anthropology, Leiden University
1972-1974student assistant, Ethnographic film and Sociology of Education, Leiden University
1974MA Cultural Anthropology, Leiden University
1974-1979researcher Netherlands organization for Scientific Research NWO, WOTRO (Kenya)
1980-1981nine-month assignment in Sri Lanka, funded by the Ministry of Development Cooperation
1984-1988PhD researcher, NWO, WOTRO (Sri Lanka)
1988PhD Nijmegen University
1989research manager at the Centre for Asian Studies (CASA), University of Amsterdam
1989-1992post-doc research at Nijmegen University
1993-2009professor intercultural gender studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University
2008-presentaffiliated fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies, Leiden and Amsterdam University
2009-presentemeritus professor

Special activities and positions

  • Co-founder in 1985 of a Sri Lanka non-governmental organization called ‘SIYATH’ (meaning “One hand or hundred hands”)
  • Member advisory board of SIYATH Foundation (NGO), Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1985-present
  • Former member of academic (selection) committees of IDPAD, NWO, CNWS, NOVIB and IIAS
  • Current member of the board of REIACTIS (International Research on Age, Citizenship and Socio-Economic Integration)
  • Consultant/reviewer of programmes in Sri Lanka for the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation, UNFPA and several other international and governmental organisations
  • Director of the ethnographic film A woman like Yasawati (25 min., 1981); Dutch version Een vrouw als Yasawathie (producent: ‘s-Gravenhage: Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst 1983; distributie ABC Cinemien)
  • Director of the film The wrong end of the rope (16 mm, 80 min. 1985) awarded with several prices; Dutch version Het kortste eind (video, 82 min. 1985); Sinhalese version Lanuwe weradi kelawara (video, 82 min. 1992; distributie ABC Cinemien): 1985 Premiere at World Conference UN Decade for Women, Nairobi, Kenya; Selected Opening Film at Margaret Mead Festival, New York, 1988
  • Director of the film Old Spirits, New Persons: Rose, healer and diviner in Western Kenya, 1999
  • Invited visiting professor at OchanumizuUniversity (Institute of Gender Studies), Tokyo, Japan, 8 months in 2002
  • Member governing board of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Amsterdam, 2005-2011
  • Invited lecture series at the Department of Sociology, University of Nairobi, Kenya, 1992
  • Invited affiliated fellow at Beatrice Bain Research Group, (Gender and Race Studies) Berkeley California 2009 (4 months)
  • Invited lectures at different universities in the Netherlands, India, Sri Lanka, England, Germany and Kenya


  • personal website
  • Postel, Els, “Carla Risseeuw : anthropologist, activist, film maker, feminist.” Vena journal 4,2 (1992): 45-50.

Selected publications

Only publications on South Asia, mainly Sri Lanka, are included (one exception in 2005).
1979 Life and labour of women in the coir industry, Kalupe, Galle district, Sri Lanka, Leiden: Universiteit Leiden, Vrouwen en werk in de Derde Wereld, Symposium Leyden University, 17 and 18 January 1979, Africa Study Centre.
& Joke Schrijvers, “Research and action among women in Sri Lanka.” IMWOO Bulletin 7(1).
“The poorest women of Kalupe do the most dirty work” on the research period and work in Sri Lanka by journalists of the magazine Internationale Samenwerking 11(4).
1980 Et al., A woman’s mind is longer than a kitchen spoon: report on women in Sri Lanka, field data collected by the authors and Chitra Maunaguru … [et al.]; editing Els Postel and Joke Schrijvers; general comments Kamala Peiris, Leiden-Colombo, 146 p
The wrong end of the rope, women coir workers in Sri Lanka, Leiden: Research Project Women and Development. IV, 253, 7 p. – Sinhalese edition in 1988.
‘Who believes in a project for us?:’ women in the coconut industry in Sri Lanka, Leiden: Institute of Cultural and social Studies, p. 24. – Also published in Intermediair (Academic weekly, The Netherlands), April 1980.
“Women ropemakers in Sri Lanka.” Internationale Spectator, June 1980.
1981 Limits to organizing women: a case of women coir workers in Sri Lanka, paper for International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), Conference: Women’s Organisations and Movements in different societies, April 1981, Amsterdam. Lova Newsletter 1981, October, [17] p.
1983 & Kamala Peiris, It is your own hand, which gives you shade (Sinhala proverb): study on potential of small scale coir organizations of women workers in Sri Lanka, assisted by A.P. Chandralal de Silva, Utrecht: C.D.P. (Consultants for Management of Development Programmes), vii, 106 p.
1984 & Kamala Peiris, Proposal and script for a documentary on women coir workers in Sri Lanka, [s.l.] : [s.n.], 46 p.
Organisation and disorganisation: a case of women coir workers in Sri Lanka, Geneva: ILO, 35 p. – Also published in Delhi 1987 and Aldershot 1988.
1985 “Some remarks in relation to the making of the film ‘A woman like Yasawathie’.” In: A. Boeren, F. Brinkgreve and S. Roels (eds), Teken van leven, studies in etnocommunicatie, University of Leiden, (ICA-publication 71).
“Rope makers in Sri Lanka: a woman like Premawathie.” In: E. Postel-Coster (ed.), Ongekende wegen, macht en onmacht van vrouwen in Sri Lanka, Egypte en West Afrika, Leiden: DSWO Press, pp. 107-117.
1986 Changing inheritance rights of Sinhalese women under colonial rule, Report of the year 1984, The Hague: Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research.
1987 “Transformation in gender-relations in Sri Lanka under colonial rule.” Netherlands review of development studies 1987,1: 7-23.
“Organisation and disorganisation: a case study of women coir workers in Sri Lanka.” In: A. Meneffee Singh and A. Kelles Vitanen, Invisible hands, women and home-based production, Delhi: Sage Publications, pp. …
1988 The fish don’t talk about the water: gender transformation, power and resistance among women in Sri Lanka, Leiden [etc.]: Brill, XIV, 415 p. – PhD thesis NijmegenUniversity; Indian reprint New Delhi 1991.
“Organisation and disorganisation: a case of women coir workers in Sri Lanka.” In: S. Wieringa (ed.), Women struggles and strategies, Aldershot: Gower, pp. 31-53.
“Strategies for organising and women in home-based production.” Peripherie: Zeitschrift für Politik and Ökonomie in der Dritten Welt 8,30/31: ….
“From purdah to muted powers: overview of Dutch feminist writings on India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh over the last twenty years.” South Asia Newsletter 2: 21-27.
1990 “Women’s studies in Sri Lanka, second national convention on Women’s Studies.” South Asian Newsletter 6, December 1990.
1991 Gender transformation, power and resistance among women in Sri Lanka: the fish don’t talk about the water, New Delhi: Manohar, XV, 399 p. – Original title: The fish don’t talk about the water : gender transformation, power and resistance among women in Sri Lanka, PhD thesis NijmegenUniversity 1988.
“Tussen aanvaarding en verzet: gender-transformatie in Sri Lanka en de theorie van Bourdieu.” Derde Wereld 1991,2: 43-66.
“Bourdieu, power and resistance: changing gender relations in Sri Lanka.” In: Kathy Davis et al. (eds), The gender of power, London, pp. 154-179. – republished in 2005.
1992 “Gender, kinship and state formation: case of Sri Lanka under colonial rule.” EPW 27,43/44: WS46-WS54.
1993 & Kamala Ganesh (eds), Gender between family and State: report and recommendations of the Conference on State and Market Influences on Gender, Family and Kinship Relations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, Nairobi 22-28 February 1993, Leiden: University of Leiden. Department of Anthropology. Women and Autonomy Centre (VENA) in cooperation with University of Nairobi. Department of Sociology and Commission on Women (IUAES), 34 p.
& Kamala Ganesh, “Gender between family and state.” EPW October 23: 2332-2336. – Also published in 1994.
1994 “Resistance, gender and agency: a case in south Sri Lanka.” Nijmegen studies in development and cultural change 21: 246-280. – Also published in 1995.
& Kamala Ganesh, “Gender between family and state.” VENA Journal 6,1: 8-15.
1995 “Transformation in gender and kinship in relation to state formation: the case of Sri Lanka under colonial rule.” In: J.M. Bahemuka (ed.), Changing gender and kinship in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, Conference Nairobi held in 1993, Nairobi: University of Nairobi Press, vol. 1, pp. 18-50.
“Resistance, gender and agency: a case of Sri Lanka.” In: F. Schuurman (ed.), Current issues in development studies: global dimensions of agency and structure, Saarbrücken: Breitenbach.
“Widerstand auf der Grundlage von Klasse und Geschlecht im Süden Sri Lankas: ein Vergleich.” Peripherie, Zeitschrift für Politik und Ökonomie in der Dritten Welt 57/58: 137-165.
1996 & Rajni Palriwala (eds), Shifting circles of support : contextualising gender and kinship in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, New Delhi: Sage, Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 343 p. – Papers originally presented at the conference on ‘State and Market Influences on Gender, Family and Kinship Relations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia’, held in Nairobi in early 1993.
“Introduction.” In: ibidem, pp. 15-47.
“State formation and transformation in gender relations and kinship in colonial Sri Lanka.” In: ibidem, pp. 79-109. pdf
1998 & Kamala Ganesh (eds), Negotiation and social space: a gendered analysis of changing kin and security networks in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, New Delhi-Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 353 p.
& Kamala Ganesh, “Introduction: gendered change in marriage and family: a policy concern.” In: ibidem (?) pp. 11-47.
1999 “Thinking culture through counter-culture: the case of Theosophists in India and Ceylon and their ideas on race and hierarchy (1875-1947).” In: A. Copley and H. Rustau (eds), New religious movements, London-Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 180-208. pdf
“Globalisering in Nederland vanuit Indiaas perspectief.” In: P. Hoebink, D. Haude and F. v.d. Velde, Doorlopers en breuklijnen, van globalisering, emancipatie en verzet, Assen: Van Gorcum, pp. 176-189.
“Trading and tricking, making a living through rope in south west Sri Lanka.” Anthropology of Work Review (American Anthropologist Association) 19,3: 13-18.
2000 “Ageing, a gendered policy concern in the South and the North.” Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 6,2: 11-49. – also published in 2002.
Review of: Herman de Tollenaere, The politics of divine wisdom: theosophy and labour, national and women’s movements in Indonesia and South Asia, 1875-1947, Nijmegen 1996. Itinerario 2000,3/4: 217-220.
2001 “Policy issues of inclusion and exclusion in relation to gender and ageing in the South.” The European Journal of Development Research 13,2: 28-48. pdf
2002 “Ageing: a gendered policy concern in the South and the North.” In: Sustainable Social Structures in a society for all ages, United Nations, Economic and Social Affairs, New York, pp. 29-41.
“Towards a research agenda: a comparative approach to ageing and gender.” In: Europe and the South in the 21st Century, Karthaga, Paris, pp. 280-221.
2003 “Ageing and gender: some forgotten dimensions of pro-poor policies.” In: Poverty and governance, Netherlands Development Assistance Research Council, RAWOO lectures and 25th Anniversary conference (RAWOO 26), pp. 79-86.
2005 “Bourdieu, power and resistance: gender transformation in Sri Lanka.” In: Derek Robbins (ed.), Pierre Bourdieu 2, 4 vols, London: Sage (SAGE Masters of Modern Social Thought), vol. 1, pp. 93-112.
“Care, culture and citizenship – revisiting the politics of the Dutch welfare state”: With Rajni Palriwala and Kamala Ganesh (and Maitheyi Krishnaraj); Spinhuis Publishers; Amsterdam.
2008 & S. Irudaya Rajan and Myrtle Perera (eds), Institutional provisions and care for the aged: perspectives from Asia and Europe, Delhi-London: Anthem, xviii, 269 p. online resource
“Social setting and demand for senior homes in the Netherlands and Sri Lanka.” In: S. I. Rajan, C. Risseeuw and M. Perera, Institutional provision and care for the aged: perspectives from Asia and Europe, London: Anthem Press, pp. 204-223.
2012 “Urban middle-class elderly in Sri Lanka and the Netherlands: everyday sociality and ways of keeping company.” In: Brigitte Röder, Willemijn de Jong and Kurt W. Alt (eds), Alter(n) anders Denken: kulturelle und biologische Perspektiven, pp. 299-318. pdf
“Institutional care provisions for the aged in Sri Lanka and some reflections on issues of ‘care’ and ‘company’.” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 32 (11/12/2012): 695-707. Abstract
Publication of selected articles on “Friendship, its meaning and practice in East and West”(working title)