Helle Rydström



Rydström is specialized in the anthropology of gender in Asia. Her research examines the ways in which gender informs violence, security, and vulnerability in social life and in sites of conflict and war, on the one hand, and how gendered power relations impact hierarchies, socialization, sexuality, and education, on the other. Rydström has conducted many periods of fieldwork two of which were long-term anthropological fieldwork in a rural northern Vietnamese commune (i.e. 1994-1995 and 2000-2001) while others have been shorter periods (i.e. 1-4 months) which have been carried out in Vietnam, India, and Nepal. She is coordinating, together with C. Kinnvall, an initiative to study violence against women and girls in Asia and Europe in a postcolonial security and vulnerability perspective. (The study includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, China, India, Italy, The Nordic Countries, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, the UK, and Vietnam).

Over the years, Rydström has coordinated several externally funded research projects, for instance, an 8-year interdisciplinary research project on Rural Families in Transitional Vietnam which was part of a larger long term research capacity building program in Vietnam funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The project was partner driven and included about 20 scholars from the Institutes of Sociology, Family and Gender Studies, and Anthropology all in Hanoi, Vietnam. In a current research project, which is part of a larger project (coordinated by D. Mulinari) included in the National Research Council’s (‘Vetenskapsrådet’) Civil Society Program, Rydström explores the gendering of civil society, violence, vulnerability, and women’s organization in Vietnam. In an ongoing research project funded by Sida, Rydström studies together with P. Horton and M. Tonini the ways in which gender and sexualities are (mis)recognized in legislation, education, and practice in urban India and Vietnam.


Helle Rydstrom is Professor at the Department of Gender Studies at Lund University in Sweden. She has a background in International Development Studies and Social Anthropology and is specialized in the anthropology of gender in Asia.

Professor Rydstrom has carried out fieldwork in Nepal and India but above all in Vietnam where she has conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork to study violence, war, sexuality, gender socialization, and education about which she has published extensively with high-profiled publishers. Her recent publications include amongst others, ‘Vietnam Women’s Union and the Politics of Representation’. In The Politics of Representation (eds. H. Danielsson et.al.). London: Palgrave McMillan, 2016; ‘Masculinity, Femininity, and Violence between Partners in Vietnam: Gendered Asymmetries and Privileges’. In Handbook of Vietnamese Studies (ed. J. London). London and New York: Routledge; ‘The Politics of Colonial Violence’, European Journal of Women’s Studies. vol. 22(2): 191-207; ‘Contesting Heteronormativity: The Fight for LGBT Recognition in India and Vietnam’,Culture, Health and Sexuality, 17(9):1059-1073, 2014 (w. P. Horton and M. Tonini); ‘Gendered Corporeality and Bare Lives’, Signs, vol. 37(2): 275-301, 2012; and ‘Heterosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Vietnam: Privileges, Pleasures, and Protests’, Men and Masculinities, vol.14(5):542-564, 2011 (w. P. Horton).

Rydstrom was nominated, as author of Embodying Morality (University of Hawaii Press) for the Harry J. Benda Prize and won the research prize in memoriam of Professor Tamara K. Hareven for Embodying Morality. She was even granted the Research Award for Particularly Talented Younger Scholars (The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences).

Over the years, Rydstrom has been in charge of a large number of externally funded research projects. Currently she is coordinating a group to ‘Critically Explore Crisis’ (sponsored by The Sandblom Fund). She is the scientific leader of an ongoing 5-year research project funded by the Swedish Research Council on ‘Climate Disasters and Gendered Violence in Asia: A Study on the Vulnerability and (In)Security of Women and Girls in the Aftermath of Recent Catastrophes in Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam’ (w. C. Kinnvall and H. Nguyen). Rydstrom is the coordinator together with A. Datta, Delhi University, India of the Linnaeus-Palme funded exchange project on ‘Gender and Space in a Globalized World’. Rydstrom has been the scientific leader of research projects such as ‘Recognition and Homosexuality: The Socio-Cultural Status of Same-Sex Relations in India and Vietnam’ funded by the Swedish Research Council (w. P. Horton and M. Tonini) and ‘Challenged Feminism: The Women’s Union in Late-Socialist Global Vietnam’ under the program ‘Imagining Change: Women and the Making of Civil Societies in the Arctic Region, Asia, Latin America, and Europe’ (coordinated by D. Mulinari) funded by the Swedish Research Council. Of the many projects Rydstrom has coordinated with a development and rights focus, the project on ‘The Protection of Women, Children, and Marginalized Groups against Violence in Vietnam and Cambodia’ funded by the Embassy of Sweden in Vietnam could be mentioned as well as the project on ‘Rural Families in Transitional Vietnam’ under the Swedish Research Capacity Building Program to Vietnam funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

Engaged in international collaborations, Rydstrom has been a visiting scholar at prestigious institutes such as The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, New York University (NYU), New York, USA; The Department of Social Anthropology, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany; and The York Institute for Asian Research, York University, Canada. Rydstrom collaborates closely with various institutes in India and Vietnam with which she has established a foundation for scholarly exchange. She is one of the coordinators of the Global Gender Matters Workshops at Lund University, and is actively involved in the Nordic Southeast Asian Network as well as the Swedish South Asian Studies Network (SASNET).

As for other commitments Professor Rydstrom, for instance, is the Chair of the Tenure and Promotion Committee ('Docenturnämnd') at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Lund University; Research Responsible at the Department of Gender Studies, Lund University; referee for high-tier international presses and journals (e.g. American Ethnologist; Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; Asian Studies; Gender, Place, and Culture); Ph.D. supervisor; examiner of doctoral dissertations (e.g. Australia, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, India, and Sweden); referee for international research councils (e.g. National Science Foundation, USA; NOKUT Norway); and referee of Tenure and Promotion applications at universities in North America.  

Recent research outputs

Helle Rydström & Datta, A., 2019 Jun 26, (Accepted/In press) Gender in South Asian Modernity: Vulnerabilities and Violences. Mitra, N. & Andersson, U. (eds.). Palgrave Macmillan, (Gender, Sexualities and Culture in Asia).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Helle Rydström, 2019 Jan 11, In : Ethnos.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Helle Rydström, 2019, (Accepted/In press) State, Economy, Society in a Shifting Global Environment. Ljunggren, B., Perkins, D. & Hansson, E. (eds.). Harvard University Press

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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