Mundane Heroines: Conflict, Ethnicity, Gender, and Female headship in Eastern Sri Lanka

Kanchana N. Ruwanpura, Jane Humphries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For the last twenty years, eastern Sri Lanka has witnessed a bitter and bloody civil conflict. This paper explores the experience of female-headed households in the region. Only partially the product of war, such households cannot be bundled together as a social problem with a single solution. Our study endorses the feminist suspicion of falsely homogenizing accounts of women's lives and suggests instead an alternative emphasis on the many ways in which gendered relations of dominance and subordination are maintained. With its co-existing Muslim, Tamil, and Sinhala groups, eastern Sri Lanka facilitates the exploration of ethnicity as a source of variation. The households included in this study share a common structure and face the same economic problems, yet ethnic differences divide them. The paper charts the problems, strategies, and partial triumphs of these lone mothers and proposes policies to help them in their mundane but heroic struggle
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-205
JournalFeminist Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2004


  • Female-Headship
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Conflict
  • Eastern Sri Lanka
  • Kinship & Community


Dive into the research topics of 'Mundane Heroines: Conflict, Ethnicity, Gender, and Female headship in Eastern Sri Lanka'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this