Dr Asha L. Abeyasekera

Urban geographies of home and homemaking in pandemic times: gendered experiences of dispossession and ethical-life claiming in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Funding period: 15 October 2021 – 15 July 2022
Type of funding: International Fellowship

Dr. Asha Abeyasekera is a senior lecturer – Gender and Women’s Studies – at the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo. She obtained her PhD in International Development and Anthropology from the University of Bath in 2013.

She’s the co-lead researcher for the GCRF funded multi-country study ‘Navigating the grid in the “world-class city”: poverty, gender, and access to services in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka’. She is also the lead researcher for Sri Lanka on a multi-country study on ‘Honour, shame, and, child protection’ conducted in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Uganda, and South Africa.

Drawing on ethnography and life-history narratives, her research investigates how gender, class, and ethno-religious identities shape the moral self in contemporary urban South Asia. Her current research focuses on cross-cultural experiences of mental health and wellbeing, and women’s labour in homemaking and household survival.

As a USF International Fellow, Dr. Abeyasekera will spend nine months with Prof. Katherine Brickell at the Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research writing will focus on the everyday lives of poor women living in urban working-class neighbourhoods in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It traces their gendered experiences of contending with eviction and precarity in the wake of the state’s aspirations to make Colombo a ‘world-class city’ and, more immediately, in the midst of the devastating consequences of COVID-19 on urban livelihoods, schooling, and health.

Profile at ResearchGate.net | Profile at Academia.edu | asha.abeyasekera@gmail.com

As part of her USF Fellowship, Dr Asha Abeyasekera also received a USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award in April 2024 (see below)

USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award: Home as Hope: Reimagining Colombo as Utopia with the Urban Working-Class Poor in Sri Lanka

Home as Hope is a collaboration with Vraie Cally Balthazaar based at LirneAsia to write a community manifesto that aims to create a space for Colombo’s working-class poor to imagine an alternative future where their needs and aspirations are central to urban planning and development.

The project aims to provide an opportunity for urban working-class residents of Colombo, Sri Lanka, to discuss and debate their ideas for an equitable city and collectively produce a ‘Community Manifesto’ that privileges their voices.  Building on the findings of GCRF-UKRI funded study on ‘off-grid cities, the manifesto building exercise intends to open up a space of creative play where people are invited to imagine a utopian city. Such a space allows people to reimagine Colombo as a place of possibility that is not limited to the existing policies of the Urban Regeneration Project nor constrained by a political climate permeated by resignation and despair.

The overall benefit to the community is the opportunity to voice their concerns about home and community and produce a vision statement and a statement of principles that clearly articulates how the state and development agencies should engage with them when implementing their plans for the city.