Researcher on Ageing in East and West

1. About the 'Ageing in East and West' Network

2. Visiting Researchers on theme of ageing hosted by IIAS

3. IIAS Research Fellow: Prof. Em. Carla Risseeuw
      a. Main Research activities
      b. Other Activities
      c. Recent completed PhD projects on Asia
      d. Recent publications related to Ageing

1. About the 'Ageing in East and West' Network

It is projected that by 2050 there will be nearly two billion people aged 60 and over, three-quarters of whom will be living in the developing world. Ageing in Asia is attributable to the marked decline in fertility shown over the last 40 years and the steady increase in life-expectancy. In Western Europe, ageing populations developed at a slower pace and could initially be incorporated into welfare policy provisions. Currently governments are seeking ways to trim and reduce government-financed social welfare and healthcare, including
pensions systems, unleashing substantial public debate and insecurity. Many Asian governments are facing comparable challenges and dilemmas, involving both the state and the family, but are confronted with a much shorter time-span.

Public (welfare), commercial and private arrangements on ageing in Asia and Europe are:
- Socio-cultural notions of intergenerational care; (in)dependence, vulnerability and well-being, as well as local meanings given to concepts as  ‘company’; ‘loneliness’, ‘a good life’.
- In relation to anthropology: interested in (limits) of conceptualization of ‘the social’: the seeming lack of adequate concepts beyond kinship/personhood: the workings of recently introduced terms to pinpoint what cannot be said   as  for instance ‘relatedness’. ‘sociality’, performance’.
- Comparing moralities of public welfare regimes and the shifting logics’ of in- and exclusion”.
- Strategies of political mobilisation  in relation to issues of ageing (REACTIS)

This research network, in short, sheds light on how both Asian and European nations are reviewing the social contract with their citizens.

2. Visiting Researchers on the theme of ageing hosted by IIAS

Three researchers from Asia, and specialists on the theme of ageing, have visited IIAS during the last few years, and return visits to Leiden have been planned:

Professor Mariko Hirose (Tokai University), an expert on policy shifts for theelderly in Japan and the Netherlands.

Professor Hirose (Tokai University, School of Humanities and Culture) has – over the last 20 years - undertaken research on ageing in Japan and the Netherlands, titled “A comparative view on the recent policy shifts for the elderly in Japan and the Netherlands”.  Prof. Hirose has a substantial, long term-based network within Dutch and Japanese  academic and policy circles on ageing and welfare policy. She combines a high level of knowledge of every day life of elders within families and institutions in both countries, with long term research on the shifting ideals and practice of care for elders in both countries. She periodically also publishes with her husband, Prof. Y. Shimodaira (sociologist, Meisei University), whose research focus concerns the influence of globalisation on the immigration policies of Western European states as well as of Japan.  

Prof. Hirose has been awarded funds and sabbatical to continue her study in Holland during 2013/16.
Further research cooperation with Prof. Risseeuw in planned.

Of her long list publications, three recent titles are added:
-“Trends of health and welfare reforms in the Netherlands – Changing Dutch Health Care”, Hakujin-kai, Saitama, 2013 (in Japanese);
-“Policy for the elderly in the Netherlands, Data-book of Health Issues in the Netherlands, Institute for Health Economics and Policy, Tokyo, 2012 (in Japanese);
-“Modification of ‘hybrid welfare state’ influenced by Activation policy: the case of the Netherlands, in Hiroyuki Fukuhara and Kengo Nakmra (eds.): European Welfare Regimes i
the 21st century, Tadashinomori Shobo, Kyoto (in Japanese);
- “The definition of Intimate Partner Violence and its position in the legal system”, Journal of Social Security law, No. 26, Japan Association of Social Security Law, Horitsu Bunka-sha, Kyoto, 2011 (in Japanese).

Professor Roma Chatterji (University of Delhi) who conducted an ethnographic studyof an ageing institution in the Netherlands

Roma Chatterji - a well-known Indian scholar on ageing and dementia - was  IIAS fellow during her 3 month stay in 2012 and financed by the 4 year EU-funding project of  Department of Sociology, Delhi University with several universities in Western Europe. In the Netherlands the IIAS was the counter-part institution.

Roma Chatterji has earlier  made an ethnographic study of  an ageing institution on the Netherlands, under the guidance of Prof. Klaas van der Veen and  Prof. Veena Das (IDPAD, NWO), published in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, vol. 2 pp 355-82: “An ethnography of dementia: a case study of an Alzheimer’s disease patient in the Netherlands”, 1998. The overall project of 4 years with a team of 5 researchers was titled: “The welfare state from the outside: ageing, social structure and professional care in the Netherlands”, unpublished manuscript, (ICSSR, New Delhi and IMWOO, The Hague, 1991).

During her IIAS stay, Professor Chatterji extensively revisited her the former research site and interviewed current staff and policy personnel.

Currently her two publications on this revisiting period are:
- “Writing Pasts: ‘Dutch Medical Institutions and their Publics”; Occasional paper in 2011/VI European Studies Programme, University of Delhi (2011)
-“Death in a Dutch Nursing Home: On touching the other”, to be published in an edited volume by Veena Das and Clara Han: Working title: “An Anthropology of Living and Dying”.

Further publications and return visits to the Netherlands are planned.

Dr. MalaKapur Shankardass (Delhi University), focussing on the themeof ‘violence against elders’.

Theme: “Violence against Elders”, Dr. Shankardass visited as a fellow in 2011. Within a relatively short period she succeeded in laying contact with a large variety of  scholars; governmental and NGO specialists on this theme, both in the Netherlands as well as several European countries. She has a wide range of  experience within the international policy-making on this field. She further participated in  the 5 year the REIACTIS panel on the topic  at the 5 yearly conference in Dyon, 2012 (see below). She is the author of the book “Growing Old in India: Voices Reveal and Statistics Speak”, B.R. publishing, Delhi, 2004.

3. Carla Risseeuw, IIAS Research Fellow and Professor (Em.) at Leiden University

Professor emeritus (2009) Department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University; guest fellow at Ochanumizu University, Tokyo, 9 months 2002; guest fellow at Center for Race and Gender, Beatrice Baine Research Center,  Berkeley, 4 months in 2009).

Board Member of a French-based international organisation: REIACTIS (“Réseau d’Étude Internationnal sur l’Age, la Citoyenneté et l’Intégration (“Age, Citizenship and Integration”), headed by Dr. Jean Philippe Viriot Durandal since 2002.  It holds yearly board meetings and every five years organises one  large international conference on a certain theme, as was held in Dijon in 2012. The network currently has representatives and linkages mainly in European, North European, Latin American and African countries ( It actively welcomes Asian scholars and researchers to participate. (further information:

a. Main Research activities
b. Other Activities
c. Recent completed PhD projects on Asia
d. Recent publications related to Ageing

a. Main recent research activities in relation to the theme of ageing

A 4 year research project “Care for the Aged, Gender, Institutional Provisions and Social Security in India, the Netherlands and Sri Lanka”, with Prof. I. Rajan, Professor, Research Unit on International Migration, Centre for Development Studies (CDS); Dr. Myrtle Perera, Vice Chairperson Marga Research Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka and Prof. Carla Risseeuw (Intercultural Gender-studies, Leiden University): undertaken between 2003 – 2008 in cooperation with the ICSSR New Delhi and funded by IDPAD,NWO.

During our research period Prof. Rajan hosted several meetings and conferences at CDS, Kerala which greatly contributed  to our regular exchange of research findings during the project. Further the  Leiden-based PhD researcher, Manja Bomhoff  greatly benefitted from her base at the CDS with its research and library facilities.

On the basis of statistical data, prof. Rajan  compared the ageing scenario in India, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands, highlighting differences per country on life-expectancy, male/female; young dependency ratio; parents support ratio to mention a few. Further within India, he focussed on the regional variation in relation to gender, health, disease, employment, property and pensions and other forms of economic security.

Dr. Myrtle Perera surveyed institutional provisions and health security in several Sri Lankan provinces, covering elders from the different religious faiths and income levels and highlighting substantial differences on the island.

Carla Risseeuw, undertook five month  fieldwork within two Colombo senior homes, Sri Lanka, sharing activities (as a weekly discussion on religious and philosophical issues (Rebirth; moment of death; last thought) and participating in everyday life, with a  two month follow up visit a year later to (mainly) the same homes and elders. She further revisited her earlier research sites (end 70-ties and early 80-ties) among women coir workers, along the Sri Lankan South coast, where one ages within contexts of varying degrees of  (extreme) poverty. Lastly, a survey on Colombo private and public senior homes was conducted to gain further insight into the vast variation of facilities, funding and scope. In the book two articles on ageing the Netherlands were added.   

b. Other activities

* Convenor of  IIAS conference: Public and Private Old-Age Security Arrangements in Asia and Europe, 5-8 September, 2007, Leiden.

* Board member of  the Research Group: Réseau de Recherche International sur l’Age, la Citoyenneté  et l’Intégration socio-économique: Coordination Jean-Philippe Viriot Durandal. (

* Planning short filmed  conversations/statements of individual elder people on the issue of ‘ageing’ (of 20-35 minutes each).

* Main convenor IIAS conference: “Conceptualizing ‘Friendship’ its meaning and practice in time and place’ together with Dr. Silvia d’Intino, senior lecturer at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Université Paris 1 and Tazuko van Berkel, Department of Classical Studies, Leiden University (Leiden, September 30th – October 2nd, 2010).

* Resource person to the EU-funded research project, to develop a European Study Centre at Delhi University, India (January 2010-2012). The main coordinators are Prof. Meenakshi Thapan and Prof. Rajni Palriwala, Department of Sociology, Delhi University.  IIAS is a partner institution to this project, together with the Ecole Normal Supérieure (ENS), Paris; Department of Science, Po; University of Potsdam, of Aarhus and of Milan.

Prof. Roma Chatterji and Prof. Rajni Palriwala will periodically undertake research in Holland in 2010/11. The IIAS will form their base. Roma Chatterji (ageing, dementia) will be in Leiden in June 2010.

The first joint workshop will be hosted in June by the Professor Florence Weber, Ecole Normal Supérieure, Paris: Towards a comparative program crossing disciplines: ‘Caring practices and Principles of Care’.

c. Recent completed PhD projects on Asia

- ‘Thai Migrant Women in the Netherlands: Cross-Cultural Marriages and Families’:  Panitee Suksomboon (Thammasat University, Thailand), June, 2009.  with Han ten Brummelhuis.

- ‘Gender, Marriage and Migration. Contemporary Marriages between Mainland China and Taiwan’: Melody Chia-Wen LU, May, 2008  (with Axel Schneider)

- Manja Bomhoff : 'Long-Lived Sociality. 'A Cultural Analysis of Middle-Class Older Persons' Social Lives in Kerala, India (Leiden 2011)

d. Recent publications related to Ageing

  • Institutional Provision and Care for the Aged, Perspectives from Asia and Europe,    Ed.: S. Irundaya Rajan, Carla Risseeuw and Myrtle Perera. Anthem Press, London, 2008.

    - Ch. 1: Care for the Aged in Asia and Europe. Co-author with S I. Rajan and M. Perera  (1-38)
    - Social Settings and demand for senior homes in the Netherlands and Sri Lanka (204-223)
    - Changing Public Care for elders in the Netherlands (242-260).
  •  ‘Discourses on Ageing and Dying’, edited by S.C. Chatterjee; P. Patnaik and V.M. Chariar, 2008 – International Journal of Social Welfare , Un. Of California Berkeley, Volume 18, number 3, July 2009, pp 306/7.
  • 'Urban Middle-Class Elderly in Sri Lanka and the Netherlands: Everyday Sociality and ways of Keeping Company', page 299 - 318  in Altern(n) Anders Denken. Kulturelle und Biologische Perspektiven, editors B. Roder (umlau op o); W. de Jong en K.W. Alt (editors) Bohlau verlag, Koln, Weimar Wien, 2012.

  • 'Institutional care provisions for the aged in Sri Lanka and some reflections on issues of 'care' and 'company' '' , page  695 -707, in International Journal of Sociology and Policy: Shifting Boundaries of Care in Asia, Guest editors Yanxia Zhang and Wei-Jun. Jean Yeung
    volume 32, number 11/12, 2012.
  • 2011: PhD:“Long-Lived Sociality. A Cultural Analysis of Middle-class Older Person’s Social Lives in Kerala India”, by Manja Bomhoff   Defended 24/11/2011, Leiden University. Supervisors Prof. Carla Risseeuw and Prof. Irundaya S. Rajan.