Woman Stivens, Maila

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Written by Ann Standish and Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Maila Stivens is an anthropologist who has written extensively on gender, 'family', human rights, and latterly childhood in both Australia and Asia. Her first research project explored middle-class kinship in Sydney, but subsequently her work has focused on Malaysia and Asia more widely.

She was born in Canberra, attended schools in London and Sydney and did an undergraduate degree in anthropology at the University of Sydney where she also did a Masters in Anthropology (MA Hons, Kinship and Class: a Study in a Middle Class Suburb of Sydney ) before moving to the London School of Economics (Ph.D., Women, Kinship and Economy in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia). In Sydney she was active in supporting the anti-Vietnam war student movement; in London she was a member of several critical and feminist anthropology groups in the 1970s, including the group that founded the journal Critique of Anthropology.

Stivens taught anthropology at University College London from 1977-87, initiating the first single-lecturer course in feminist anthropology in the United Kingdom there. In 1987 she took up the position of head of Women's -- later Gender Studies -- at the University of Melbourne. She has also had visiting fellowships at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex (2000), at the Asia Research Institute, the National University of Singapore (2004) and in Cultural Studies, the National University of Singapore (2010).

Stivens' research projects in Malaysia have explored 'matriliny' in Negeri Sembilan, modernity, work, family and identity among the new Malay middle classes, the 'Asian Family', gender and Southeast Asian modernities: revisiting 'public' and 'private', and gender politics and rights claims. Her current research is on new Asian childhoods. She has been a strong proponent of feminist anthropology, engaged in its unfolding gendered critique of the prevailing paradigms of anthropology and related disciplines, and its opening up of new fields for exploration within the discipline. As part of this engagement, she has written on the relationship of feminism and anthropology, the gendered workings of globalisation, modernity and postmodernity, debates about the category 'gender' in Asia, and the complexities of gendered rights claims, human rights and cosmopolitanisms.

Her publications include a number of authored and edited books, and monographs: Why Gender Matters in Southeast Asian Politics (editor) 1991; Malay Peasant Women and the Land (co-author) 1994; Matriliny and Modernity: Sexual Politics and Social Change in Rural Malaysia (Asian Studies Association of Australia) 1996; Gender and Power in Affluent Asia (co-editor) 1998; Human Rights and Gender Politics: Asia-Pacific Perspectives (co-editor) 2000; and numerous book chapters and articles in professional journals. She is a member of a number of editorial and publication advisory boards and was editor of the Asian Studies Review (Taylor and Francis) from Jan 2006- Dec 2009. Stivens is currently an Associate Professor and honorary principal research fellow at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne.

Additional sources: Personal Correspondence between Ann Standish and Patricia Grimshaw and Maila Stivens.

Published Resources

Online Resources

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