Michele Gamburd

Michele Gamburd

Photo courtesy of John Rudoff

Dr. Michele R. Gamburd

Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator
PhD, University of Michigan, 1995


Michele Ruth Gamburd is Professor of Anthropology at Portland State University. A cultural anthropologist, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1995. 

Gamburd's ethnographic work focuses on issues of power, politics, and identity in a Sinhala-speaking village in southwestern Sri Lanka. She writes about gender, family relations, and power struggles in The Kitchen Spoon’s Handle: Transnationalism and Sri Lanka’s Migrant Housemaids (2000), and Breaking the Ashes: The Culture of Illicit Liquor in Sri Lanka (2008) . She explores humanitarian aid, class hierarchies, and disaster diplomacy in The Golden Wave: Culture and Politics after Sri Lanka’s Tsunami Disaster (2013) and in a volume (co-edited with Dennis B. McGilvray) entitled Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions (2010). Her current project addresses issues of aging, demographic transformation, and changing intergenerational obligations in rural families. 

Media Coverage

Recent media coverage includes a video of a 2019 roundtable discussion at the University of British Columbia on the aftermaths of earthquakes and tsunamis. Visit YouTube for a 2017 interview with Michael Kilman about Dr. Gamburd's work on the anthropology of disaster. Also on YouTube is a 2018 interview produced by the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore on her work on gender, aging, and intergenerational family obligations. In addition, Voice of America broadcasted the following radio interviews with Dr. Gamburd. On her tsunami work, see http://www.voanews.com/audio/audio/359189.html. On her alcohol studies, see http://www.voanews.com/audio/audio/368263.html.

During a visit to Australia in December 2017, Dr. Gamburd did several interviews in Sinhala about her research. One radio interview, done with Swarnakanthi Rajapaksha and Dinesha Dilrukshi Wijesuriya, aired on SBS radio, a national broadcaster of multicultural and multilingual programming. Another radio interview, with Swarnakanthi Rajapaksha and Sisira Dissanayake, aired in two segments (part 1 (starting at 27:00) and part 2) on Melbourne Ethnic Community Radio, 3ZZZ 92.3 FM. She also did a television interview with Vishvavahini, an Australian TV station that broadcasts Sinhala-language materials in Australia and elsewhere. According to their website, "Vishvavahini is an IP television proudly broadcast from Melbourne Australia and it is the first TV channel fully owned and operated by Sri Lankan expatriates."

Courses Taught


Recent Publications

2020    “Migrant emplacement: Gendered subjects, state regulations, and the discursive erasure of elders in Sri Lanka.” In Caring for Old Age, edited by Christiane Brosius and Roberta Mandoki. 185-211. Heidelberg University Press. 

2020     “Proper Conjunctions of Bodies: Chastity, Age, and Kin-work in Sri Lankan Migrants’ Families.” In The Asian Migrant’s Body: Emotion, Gender and Sexuality, edited by Michiel Baas. 135-160. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

2016     “Sinhala Buddhism and Alcohol Consumption.” In Figures of Buddhist Modernity in Asia, edited by Jeffrey Samuels, Justin Thomas McDaniel, and Mark Michael Rowe. Pp. 41-43. University of Hawaii Press.  

2016      “Sri Lankan Migration from Sri Lanka to the Gulf: Female Breadwinners and Domestic Workers.” In South Asian Migration to Gulf Countries: Histories, Policies, Development, Prakash C. Jain and Ginu Zacharia Oommen, eds. Pp. 226-246. New Delhi: Routledge.

2015     “Migrant Remittances, Population Ageing and Intergenerational Family Obligations in Sri Lanka,” In Transnational Labour Migration, Remittances and the Changing Family in Asia, Lan Anh Hoang and Brenda Yeoh, eds. Pp. 139-164. New York: Palgrave.  

2015    Swarna Tharangaya (The Golden Wave). Swarnakanthi Rajapakse, translator. Nugegoda, Sri Lanka: Sarasavi Publishers. (Sinhala translation of my 2013 book).

2013. The Golden Wave: Culture and Politics after Sri Lanka's Tsunami Disaster. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

2013. "Care work and property transfers: Intergenerational Family Obligations in Sri Lanka." In Transitions and Transformations: Cultural Perspectives on Aging and the Life Course. Jason Danely and Caitrin Lynch, eds. New York: Berghahn Books.

2012. (with Geraldine Gamburd) "Of Housewarmings and Homecomings: Kinship and Gift Exchange in Sri Lankan Ceremonies." In Embedded Religions: Essays in Honor of W. S. Karunatillake, Carol Anderson, Susanne Mrozik, and R. M. W. Rajapakse, editors. Pp. 215-236. Colombo, Sri Lanka: S. Godage and Brothers.

2011. Sri Lankawe Neethi Virodhi Mathpaen Sanskruthiya (The Culture of Illicit Liquor in Sri Lanka). Swarnakanthi Rajapakse, translator. Nugegoda, Sri Lanka: Sarasavi Publishers. (Sinhala translation of 2008 book).

2011 "Female Labor Migration from Sri Lanka to the Middle East." In The Sri Lanka Reader, edited by John Holt. Pp. 687-694. Duke University Press.

Selected Works available through PDX Scholar

Curriculum Vita