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978 90 6224 985 5


304 pages



Marion den Uyl : Invisible Barriers

Gender, caste and kinship in a southern Indian village



In Kerala in southern India the caste system has been legally abolished, but "untouchability" lives on. Campaigns fought in recent years for social equality resulted in land reforms and new labour laws. The relationships between castes, and between land owners and landless labourers changed; and so too did, unintentionally, the relations between men and women. As women lost many of their rights, their standing in society diminished considerably. In this book, the stories told by Harijan 'untouchable' women in a village in southern Kerala describe the extent of these changes. Anthropologist Marion den Uyl was, with the help of local anthropologists, able to record these stories in the best tradition of oral anthropology. The women describe how they see their lives, their circumstances and their future. The research distinguishes itself from the "viricentrist" approach characterizing most anthropological research.


Invisible Barriers is not about power and powerlessness, nor is it solely about the economic position of women; typically subjects of masculine research. Inspired by the American anthropologist Gayle Rubin, Marion den Uyl has an eye for the "softer" powers shaping the lives of women: sexuality, motherhood and self-image. The stories of the women are supplemented by historical and sociological information. The experience of the anthropologist herself is woven into the fabric of the story.

For students and researchers of gender, poverty, women, cultural anthropology and Asian politics.



""Marion den Uyl has an eye for the 'softer' powers shaping the lives of women: sexuality, motherhood and self-image."

  • The Volkskrant"


Marion den Uyl is a researcher and teacher at the Free University of Amsterdam.

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