Institute for Gender Studies,Ochanomizu University

Carla Risseeuw

Visiting Professor at IGS / Professor of Intercultural Gender Studies, at the Institute for Social and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University, Netherlands

The 12th IGS Evening Seminar Series

Care, Gender and Globalization


July 3, July 10 , July 17, July 24, July 31 2002


Prof. Carla Risseeuw (Visiting Professor at IGS / Professor of Intercultural Gender Studies, at the Institute for Social and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University, Netherlands)

Carla Risseeuw, Ph.D., is presently a visiting professor at IGS. She trained as an anthropologist and since 1992, is Professor of Intercultural Gender Studies, at the Institute for Social and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University, Netherlands. She has been invited to give a series of lectures at the University College London; at the University of Nairobi; at various universities in Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka, and at the University of Mumbai and Delhi, India. Her specializations include themes of globalization and social policy: changing family and kin relations, community and friendship; care and ageing; the (gendered) retraction of Northern European welfare states and the renegotiation of the public and the private (Netherlands) next to topics as 'colonial history and the notion of race' (India and Sri Lanka); the issue of home-based women workers and their mobilization (Sri Lanka) and medical anthropology (Kenya). She has undertaken research in Kenya; Sri Lanka, India and the Netherlands (with intercultural research team) and carries a strongly comparative approach to her work as an anthropologist and feminist. Next to the university she maintains strong ties with a local N.G.O. 'Siyath', in Sri Lanka since its initiation over 20 years ago. She has also worked for (inter)national development agencies and N.G.O's and has made several documentary-films in Sri Lanka and Kenya.

"Care, Gender and Globalization"
Prof. Carla Risseeuw

The process of globalization is being studied from many angles and different political perspectives. But within the analysis of this process of change, there has been relatively little emphasis on the changing setting of care- and security-arrangements world-wide. When societies undergo rapid social transformation, the shifting spaces in which kin, families, friends and communities provide support and care to others, also undergo change. As within societies care-arrangements are often taken for granted, such changes initially regularly go unnoticed. Likewise on the level of the state, the concept of social policy gains uneven attention world-wide. Furthermore countries that have developed strong examples of state-security, as for instance the welfare states of Northern Europe, are under pressure to retract their social policies. Since the second half of the 1990'ties, a critique is emerging on this neglect of the 'social domain' in the widest sense. This critique on one hand deals with an (interdisciplinary) rethinking of social policies, but on the other hand - within social sciences - refers to a renewed debate as to what 'the social domain' or 'the social' would consist of cross- culturally and in how far existing concepts can adequately express the cultural and historical diversity within. Coming from different parts of the world, feminists are among those formulating such a critique on a conceptualization and a practice of society, which neglects the social domain as well as existing care-arrangements. A central question coining major parts of this critique is: 'If capitalism is now truly global, what are the global social obligations that accompany it?' (cited in Nancy Folbre, 'The Invisible Heart - economics and family values' 2002: 208) In these lectures the trajectory of this relatively recent concept of 'care' will be discussed, mentioning some of its current means and the major authors, as well as its recent hesitant entrance into policy-discourse. The issue of the sharply rising figures of ageing populations worldwide, gives a specific edge to this emerging debate on the need of and (shifting) quality of care-arrangements in different societies. In April this year, this phenomenon of ageing populations and the challenges it poses to policy, reached a worldwide public recognition in the form of the first United Nation Conference on Ageing (Madrid). Although one must not be too optimistic about an initial outcome of such a conference, the fact that it was held, marks a substantial shift in discourse and conceptualization, re-emphasizing the need of public and private care-arrangements. The majority of care-arrangements worldwide are gendered, in the sense that it is more likely women than men, who actually are responsible to carry out many of the care-arrangements both towards the younger and older generations. Within the settings of their homes and communities these gendered care-activities are often to some degree taken for granted. This relative undervaluation is also reflected within institutional care, where employment is usually underpaid. In most societies the majority of these jobholders are women of lower-income groups. Another issue that will be explored in these series of lectures is that of the historical and cultural diversity in possible trajectories of societal care-arrangements. Although the issue of 'care'; 'care-arrangements' is rapidly gaining ground in public debate, one cannot give universal meanings to these concepts. One of the dangers is that such a new concept - as it gains credibility - will also acquire a universally prescribed meaning, which does not incorporate cultural variations in meaning and practice. Next to the need of governments to look into matters of social policy, a great deal of care-arrangements take place within community, kin and family settings, where actual practices are marked by culture, history and change. Furthermore what actually happens in circles of kin and family is not always easy to assess. Families can offer protection to its members, but can also form the arena of conflict and exclusion. Some of its members can want to escape its values and moralities, just as family members can exclude or refuse further care to certain members. During the lectures attention will be given to the type of research needed to assess differing cultural assumptions on vulnerability, responsibility and care as well as cultural preferences in ways of organizing help. On a conceptual level, the introduction of terms as 'relatedness'; 'sociality', 'personhood', 'notions of self', can assist in developing less value-laden concepts to analyze care-arrangements and their changing nature within a globalizing economy.

Seminar 1:July 3, 2002


This lecture will form the introduction to the series and will focus on various conceptual meanings of issues gathered under the concept of 'care' and discuss main authors on the topic so far, as well as the entry of the concept/the idea into policy discourse. Here the challenge will be to develop a terminology that remains aware that the often taken for granted values attached to terms like 'care', 'family' and 'community', are diverse worldwide. Research should develop ways to articulate these differences in meaning and avoid specific cultural interpretations becoming global ones. For example within many United Nations documents a concept like 'family' will in practice entail a nuclear family model with two children, which eclipses the family-experiences within many societies in the world. Means have to be found to distinguish the strongly ideological, as well as culturally exclusive interpretations from diversity within and among socio-cultural settings. This is where terms with a more neutral meaning as forms of 'relatedness', 'sociality' and others can come in useful.
Examples will be described of shifting paradigms of care in different historical and socio-cultural settings. Questions will be raised in relation to the current interpretations of the concept and the specific needs when the developing of a research agenda.
Finally in relation to social policy attention will be paid to arguments of its uneconomic costs, as well to cultural moments of its implementation.

Some further readings:

Basic Reading:

Further background readings:

Seminar 2: July 10, 2002


In the coming decades, governments and policy-makers will increasingly have to address issues relating to the process of societal ageing. The issue of increasing numbers of old people has already reached the policy agendas worldwide, which has recently culminated in the first United Nations Conference on Ageing (April, 2002). In this lecture the argument is made for developing a gendered and contextual perspective on this demographic transition, which will involve substantial change in intergenerational relations. The focus is on cultural heterogeneity, as well as the relational aspects of ageing. How one experiences growing older than one's elders depends to a large extent on the socio-cultural context as well as the relations one has with family, neighbours, friends, community and the access to available forms of support arrangements.The accompanying article to this lecture aims at outlining a tentative and comparative framework for evolving indicators to analyze and enhance our understanding of the divergent processes of societal ageing. Developing insightful indicators, based on comparative research, can lead to the maximizing of social capital and the minimizing of social exclusion for ageing populations within different state and cultural contexts. As one does not only age as a member of a family and/or community, but also as a state-citizen, analysis will have to incorporate both a public and a private societal contract (se also Hashimoto, A. 1996).

The lecture will be based on:

Further readings:

Seminar 3: July 17, 2002


This lecture approaches the retraction of the Dutch welfare state through analysis of both the public and private domain. The renegotiations of the public domain concern adjusting existing social policies. In the private domain, it involves renegotiations of social relations within family, marriage, (recently) recognized partnerships, friendship, and community.

From 1997 to 2002, a joint team of Indian and Dutch anthropologists and an economist undertook this research, which aimed to re-centre both anthropology and the study of social policy in within the anthropological issue of 'human sociality'. Within countries state social policy is often presented as value-neutral as the (cultural) assumptions underlying policy remain unarticulated. This was one of the major reasons to opt for an intercultural research team. The lecture will address the research methodology and teamwork used and discuss the major findings of the researcher team consisting of Prof Maithreyi Krishnaraj, political economist, ICSSR, Delhi; Prof. R. Palriwala and Prof. Kamala Ganesh, both anthropologists at Delhi and Mumbai University respectively and Prof. Carla Risseeuw, University of Leiden.

Perspectives of different ´players´ on the changing society will be analyzed (policy makers, researchers, media-makers, writers, cartoonists) next to responses of Dutch citizens. Underlying cultural notions of personhood, relatedness, dependence and independence will be discussed, apart from the results of targeted research on the specific cases: care-dependent seniors living at home and single parents combining work and care.

seminar4:July 24, 2002
'Care and Cultural Difference: A case of Indigenous Healing and Care in Eastern Africa: 'She's keeping her sadness like porridge in the mouth.'(Lecture with video/film-presentations.)


In this lecture the attention is on the practice of 'care' and cultural difference. Until now, (Western) anthropologists have formed one of the main channels through which knowledge of African healing ceremonies has been made public beyond their own local context. In doing so anthropologists have often emphasized the ritual and its ascribed meaning. Through showing excerpts of a film, edited on footage taken over a period between 1974 and 1992 (by C. Risseeuw) an attempt is made to focus on the specific cultural form of patient-management and the question of how to handle an uncooperative patient, a problem the filmed healer shares with medical personnel worldwide. It is not so much the ritual, nor the implied 'otherness', but the nature of the relationship between the healer, the patient and her relatives, which is central. Herewith the specific perceptions of 'care' and patient-management come more to the foreground. The manner in which the healers remain connected to the patient, at times by pushing and nearly forcing her, at times by joking and relaxing her, in order to gain her cooperation in the treatment, expresses specific cultural notions of personhood as well as sociality or a form of 'relatedness between people'. In the accompanying article on the content of the film as well as the responses of various Euro-American audiences to the film, specific cultural pre-conceptions, which not only can lead to misinterpretations but also pose immense challenges to the makers, are discussed. The film is called 'Old Spirits, New Persons. Rose: healer and diviner in Western Kenya' and is a 40-minute video film. More information can be obtained from Institute for Gender Studies.

Basic reading: Carla Risseeuw, 'She's keeping her sadness like porridge in the mouth', some notes on the film Old Spirits, New Persons. Rose: Healer and diviner in Western Kenya,' Medische Antropologie, year 13, no 2, 2001, pp. 364-389.

seminar5:July 31, 2002
Ethics and Social Research: The relations between researcher and researched. The feminist ideals on 'care' applied to the relations between researcher and researched. (Lecture with video/film-presentations.)


Ethics and Social Research: The relations between researcher and researched. The feminist ideals on 'care' applied to the relations between researcher and researched. Since the 1960-ties voices of critique have been heard within social research, both concerning the relationship between the researcher and the researched, as well as concerning the need to unravel the mechanisms which connect the traditional (anthropological) unit of study to the wider society. Did those researched get to see the publications on their lives? How were social research data used beyond the academic domain, as for instance in political and military conflicts? In how far were social scientists, especially anthropologists, able to bridge the historic, economic and socio-cultural differences which often set them apart from the peoples they studied? Feminists in the 80-ties joined in this debate through contesting the positivist, methodological principle involving a value-free, neutral, uninvolved approach, leading to 'spectator knowledge' and indifference. They called for a 'conscious partiality', where researchers became involved in struggles and lives of those researched (Mies, 1983). In this lecture the concept and practice of 'conscious partiality' will be further discussed and related to the general theme of the lectures issues of 'care', as well as issues of 'friendship', 'reciprocity' and 'sociality'. Researchers not only have to 'mentally decolonize' themselves, show 'political solidarity' and participate in forms of 'action research'. They also often have to (re)learn totally different cultural trajectories of 'trust'; 'care', 'responsibility' and learn the ways in which social relationships are conceived of and given shape in the society of their research. What does one do if local notions of a 'relationship' involve a continuity, that social research does not match? How does one give shape to one's conscious partiality and shared action, when research periods are completed? What does one do with information given in trust by informants, which cannot be protected when made public through books or films? Certain dilemmas will be drawn out and will be discussed in the three research settings in which the speaker has worked: Kenya, Netherlands and Sri Lanka. The latter involving a form of 'action research'. Excerpts of the film made at the time in Sri Lanka: 'The Wrong End of the Rope', 1985, will be shown.

Basic reading:

The film:


※This event is finished.

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Institute for Gender Studies,Ochanomizu University
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