Dennis McGilvray (Ph.D. 1974, University of Chicago)

My ethnographic interests are in South Asia, with a research focus on the Tamils and Muslims of south India and Sri Lanka. My book, Crucible of Conflict (Duke 2008), analyzes matrilineal Hindu and Muslim kinship, caste structure, religious ritual, and ethnic identities in the Tamil-speaking region of eastern Sri Lanka, an area that has been deeply affected by the island’s civil war. I have also co-edited (with Michele Gamburd) a volume of essays from a multidisciplinary NSF project entitled Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions (Routledge 2010). Currently I am exploring transnational Sufism and Muslim saints’ shrines in Sri Lanka and southern India, as well as conducting fieldwork on matrilocal marriage and dowry patterns among Tamils and Muslims in post-conflict Sri Lanka. A published photographer (Symbolic Heat, Mapin 1998), I am also interested in visual anthropology and alternative modes of cultural representation. At CU Boulder I teach a lower division course on Tamil culture; upper division courses on Symbolic Anthropology, Foundations of Theory, and South Asian ethnography; and a graduate seminar on Ethnography and Cultural Theory.


Dennis McGilvray

Selected Publications:

  • Muslim Perspectives on the Sri Lankan Conflict. Dennis B. McGilvray and Mirak Raheem. Washington DC: East-West Center 2007. PDF
  • “Tsunami and Civil War in Sri Lanka: An Anthropologist Confronts the Real World” India Review 5(3-4): 372-393. July/October 2006. PDF
  • "Jailani: A Sufi Shrine in Sri Lanka" in Imtiaz Ahmad & Helmut Reifeld, eds., Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation & Conflict. Delhi: Social Science Press 2004. pp. 273-289. PDF
  • "Arabs, Moors, and Muslims: Sri Lankan Muslim Ethnicity in Regional Perspective" Contributions to Indian Sociology 32(2): 433-483. December 1998. PDF
  • "The 1987 Stirling Award Essay: Sex, Repression, and Sanskritization in Sri Lanka?" Ethos 16(2): 99-127. June 1988. PDF
  • "Paraiyar Drummers of Sri Lanka: Consensus and Constraint in an Untouchable Caste," American Ethnologist 10(1): 97-115. February 1983. PDF
  • "Sexual Power and Fertility in Sri Lanka: Batticaloa Tamils and Moors," in Carol P. MacCormack, ed., Ethnography of Fertility and Birth. London: Academic Press 1982. pp. 25-73. (Repr. Waveland Press 1994, pp. 15-63.) PDF