Dennis B. McGilvray

Region of Interest

South Asia

Primary Country of Residence

United States of America


Professor of Anthropology


University of Colorado


Mailing Address

Department of Anthropology, 233 UCB
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0233 USA

Phone/Fax Number(s)

phones: 303-492-7198
fax: 303-492-1871


Countries of Specialization

Sri Lanka, India

Research Interests

Specializing in the study of Tamil and Muslim minority communities in Sri Lanka, as well as their links to south India (Tamilnadu and Kerala).

My ethnographic fieldwork in the Ampara and Batticaloa Districts of Sri Lanka has focused on topics of Hindu caste organization, matrilineal kinship, matrilocal marriage and dowry, popular Hinduism and Islam (including Sufism), Eurasian (Burgher) identity, and ethnic violence and conflict. I have also studied the reconstruction of Tamil, Burgher, and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka destroyed in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.



Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions (co-edited
with Michele R. Gamburd), Routledge 2010.

Crucible of Conflict: Tamil and Muslim Society on the East Coast of Sri
Lanka. Duke University Press 2008.

Muslim Perspectives on the Sri Lankan Conflict (co-authored with Mirak
Raheem). Washington DC: East-West Center 2007.

Symbolic Heat: Gender, Health, and Worship among the Tamils of South India
and Sri Lanka. Ahmedabad: Mapin 2003.

Caste Ideology and Interaction, (edited). Cambridge University Press 1982.

Selected articles and chapters:

"Dreaming of Dowry: Post-tsunami Housing Strategies in Eastern Sri Lanka."
(co-authored with Patricia Lawrence) in McGilvray and Gamburd, eds.
Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions. Routledge

"Tsunami and Civil War in Sri Lanka: An Anthropologist Confronts the Real
World." India Review 5: 372-93. (2006).

"Jailani: A Sufi Shrine in Sri Lanka." in Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut
Reifeld, eds. Lived Islam in South Asia. Delhi: Social Science Press /
Oxford & New York: Berghahn, 273-89. (2004).

"Arabs, Moors, and Muslims: Sri Lankan Muslim Ethnicity in Regional
Perspective." Contributions to Indian Sociology 32: 433-83. (1998).

"Households in Akkaraipattu: Dowry and Domestic Organization among the
Matrilineal Tamils and Moors of Sri Lanka." in John Gray and David Mearns,
eds. Society from the Inside Out: Anthropological Perspectives on the
South Asian Household. New Delhi: Sage, 192-235. (1989).

"The Stirling Award Essay: Sex, Repression, and Sanskritization in Sri
Lanka?" Ethos 16: 99-127. (1988).

"Paraiyar Drummers of Sri Lanka: Consensus and Constraint in an
Untouchable Caste." American Ethnologist 10: 97-115. (1983).

"Dutch Burghers and Portuguese Mechanics: Eurasian Ethnicity in Sri
Lanka." Comparative Studies in Society and History 24: 235-63. (1982).

"Sexual Power and Fertility in Sri Lanka: Batticaloa Tamils and Moors." in
Carol P. MacCormack, ed. Ethnography of Fertility and Birth. London:
Academic Press, 25-73. (1982). 2nd edition Waveland Press, 15-63. (1994).


Tamil ; Muslim minority ; Hindu caste ; matrilineal kinship ; matrilocality ; ...