Evelyn Blackwood

  • Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
  • Evelyn Blackwood received her PhD from Stanford University.

    Personal Website


    Evelyn Blackwood is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Purdue University. She received her PhD from Stanford University in 1993.  Author of numerous journal articles and books, her work investigates the critical intersections where localized, state and transnational processes meet individual understandings and experiences of gender, sexuality, identity and kinship.  She explores these topics through two related areas of ethnographic research, the study of a matrilineal society in West Sumatra, Indonesia, and the study of the social construction of sexualities and genders, focused on Indonesia and the United States.

    Dr. Blackwood’s research on the matrilineal Minangkabau of West Sumatra, Indonesia, explored social change in a rural farm community and resulted in her first monograph, entitled Webs of Power: Women, Kin and Community in a Sumatran Village (2000).  Her earliest work on women’s same-sex sexuality is a now classic ethnohistoric piece on Native American female two-spirits.  She edited the first collection of papers on anthropology and homosexuality, entitled The Many Faces of Homosexuality: Anthro­pol­ogical Approaches to Homosex­ual Behavior, which came out in 1985.  In the early 1990s she began a collaboration with Dr. Saskia E. Wieringa that has resulted in the publication of two award-winning anthologies on women’s same-sex sexualities and female masculinities, Female Desires: Same-sex Relations and Transgender Practices across Cultures (1999) and Women’s Sexualities and Masculinities in a Globalizing Asia (2007).  

    Dr. Blackwood was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholarship and the Martin Duberman Fellowship (Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of New York) for her research on emerging sexual and gender identities in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.  This research resulted in several articles and an award-winning monograph, entitled Falling into the Lesbi World: Desire and Difference in Indonesia (2010). The monograph explores the complexities of gender and sexuality in Indonesia for masculine-identified tombois and their girlfriends.  Her ongoing project combines anthropology and history to explore the construction and negotiation of identity, selfhood, and sexuality among baby boomers in the U.S., focusing on women in the first generation of “out” lesbians in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s.

    Dr. Blackwood served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Feminist Anthropology, a section in the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and was one of the leaders in various capacities of the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists (currently the Association of Queer Anthropologists), also a section of the AAA.  Internationally she is a founding board member of the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society.  

    At Purdue, she served on the University Senate for two terms and the Senate’s Faculty Affairs Committee. She also served as a Diversity Catalyst, a position that supports the ADVANCE Project and the Center for Faculty Success at Purdue University, and was a member of the CLA Sexual Harassment Advisors Network.

    Positions at Purdue

    2010 - 2017, Professor

    2000 - 2010, Associate Professor

    1994 - 2000, Assistant Professor

    Member: University Senate; Diversity Catalyst, ADVANCE Project and the Center for Faculty Success

Department Information

Anthropology // Emeriti Faculty

Office Information

  • Specialization

  • Gender and sexuality, kinship, self and identity, lesbian identity, transgender studies, women’s same-sex relations, globalization and sexuality, transnational feminisms, feminist theory, social movements, Island Southeast Asia, U.S. LGBT history

  • Kinship and Gender in West Sumatra, Indonesia

    • households, kinship, and agricultural development

    • gender and power

    • effects of state policies on ethnic identity

    • Islamic gender ideologies

    • critique of kinship theory

    Identities, Subjectivities and Desire

    • female two-spirits in Native American tribes historically

    • historical overview of colonial gender transgressors in Indonesia

    • critique of anthropological theories and representations of same-sex sexualities.

    • women’s same-sex sexualities and transgender practices

    • masculine females

    • butch-femme identities


    Cultural Anthropology: Mapping Cultures across Space and Time, by Janice E. Stockard and Evelyn Blackwood, is an innovative new Cultural Anthropology textbook (not your traditional anthro textbook). It provides introductory college students with the tools they need to both understand and live in a fast-changing global era. Each chapter builds on the previous ones so that students slowly and carefully piece together a number of anthropological concepts that are cross-cut with our primary themes of identity, gender, race and ethnicity, enabling them to address the complexities of our global world. Textbook IS available through Cengage Publishers at:


    Dreams of a New World: Identity, Family and Community among Lesbian Baby-boomers in the San Francisco Bay Area
    Dr. Blackwood’s current project chronicles the lives of a generation of lesbian-identified baby-boomer women in the 1970s and the extraordinary social changes that shaped their experiences and identities and continue to influence their lives today.  Women who came of age in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s constitute a diverse cohort of women that was instrumental in the creation of a new lesbian identity and community. As young women, they aspired to create new models of family, gender and sexuality based on notions of gender equality and open sexuality. By focusing on the day to day lives, social interactions and relationships of these women, this project presents a richly textured view of identity and community formation during a transformative period in U.S. women’s history and its continuation in the present day.

    See https://www.evelynblackwood.com/ for updates on this project.


    Indonesia: Falling into the Lesbi World: Desire and Difference in Indonesia (2010) is an ethnographic study of a different sort of “queer” in a locality in Indonesia that is neither isolated, out-of-step, nor distant from global queer circuits.  It explores the everyday lives of tombois (masculine-identified females) and their girlfriends in the city of Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia.  Their desires  reflect the multiplicity of queer subjectivities in Indonesia even as they confound the expectation of “modern” LGBT sexualities.  Through rich, in-depth and provocative stories and analysis of their experiences, this book speaks to the struggles and experiences of all sexual and gender minorities in a globalized world.

    See additional publications listed below.


    Three-time winner of the Ruth Benedict Prize, awarded by the Association of Queer Anthropologists (formerly known as the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists) for:

    Female Desires: Same-sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures, 2000

    Women’s Sexualities and Masculinities in a Globalizing Asia, 2007

    Falling into the Lesbi World: Desire and Difference in Indonesia, 2011

    Title IX Distinguished Service Award presented by Purdue University for the Title IX 40th anniversary, 2012.


    Gender Shifts,” feature interview on PRI’s weekly program “To the Best of Our Knowledge,” Aug. 30, 2013.

    Expert interview on men living in matrilineal societies, aired on BBC Radio 4 “Today Programme” (U.K.)  for a mini-series examining changing Western conceptions of masculinity, June 19, 2013.

    A Rare Look at Lesbian Issues in Indonesia,” by Katrin Figge, Jakarta Globe, Nov. 9, 2102.

    Islam’s Secret Feminists” by Danielle Shapiro, about the Minangkabau in West Sumatra, Indonesia, The Daily Beast, Sept. 4, 2011.


    Association of Feminist Anthropology

    Association of Queer Anthropologists



    2018        Cultural Anthropology: Mapping Cultures across Time and Space. 1e. Available on-line and in print. Janice E. Stockard and Evelyn Blackwood.  San Francisco: Cengage Publishers

    2010          Falling into the Lesbi World: Desire and Difference in Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

    2007          Women’s Sexualities and Masculinities in a Globalizing Asia. Saskia E. Wieringa, Evelyn Blackwood and Abha Bhaiya, eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    2000          Webs of Power: Women, Kin and Community in a Sumatran Village.  Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

    1999          Female Desires: Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures. Evelyn Blackwood and Saskia E. Wieringa, eds. New York: Columbia University Press.

    1986          Editor, The Many Faces of Homosexuality: Anthro­pol­ogical Approaches to Homosex­ual Behavior. New York: Har­rington Park Press. Originally published as Journal of Homosexual­ity 11 (3/4).

    JOURNAL ARTICLES (refereed)

    2012a    From butch-femme to female masculinities: Elizabeth Kennedy and LGBT anthropology. Feminist Formations 24(3): 92-100.

    2012b        Evelyn Blackwood and Mark Johnson. Queer Asian subjects: Transgressive sexualities and heteronormative meanings. Asian Studies Review 36(4):441-451.

    2009          Trans identities and contingent masculinities: Being tombois in everyday practice. Feminist Studies 35(3): 454-480.

    2008          Transnational discourse and circuits of queer knowledge in Indonesia.  GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 14(4): 481-507.

    2007          Regulation of sexuality in Indonesian discourse: Normative gender, criminal law and shifting strategies of control. Culture, Health and Sexuality 9(3): 293-307.

    2005a        Gender transgression in colonial and post-colonial Indonesia. Journal of Asian Studies 64(4): 849-879.

    2005b        Transnational sexualities in one place: Indonesian readings.  Gender & Society 19(2): 221-242.

    2005c        Wedding bell blues: Marriage, missing men, and matrifocal follies. American Ethnologist 32(1): 3-19. Featured article with commentary.

    2005d        The specter of the Patriarchal Man (rejoinder). American Ethnologist 32(1): 42-45.

    2001          Representing women:The politics of Minangkabau adat writing.Journal of Asian Studies 60(1):125-149

    2000          Culture and women’s sexualities. Journal of Social Issues 56(2): 223-238.                       

    1999          Big houses and small houses: Doing matriliny in West Sumatra. Ethnos 64(1): 32-56.

    1998          Tombois in West Sumatra: Constructing masculinity and erotic desire. Cultural Anthropology: 13(4): 491-521.                       

    1997          Women, land and labor: Negotiating clientage and kinship in a Minangkabau  peasant community.  Ethnology 36(4): 277-293.

    1985          Breaking the mirror: The construction of les­bianism and the anthropo­logi­cal discourse on homosexuality.  Journal of Homosexuality 11(3/4): 1-17.                         

    1984          Sexuality and gender in certain Native American tribes: The case of cross-gender females. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 10(1):27-42.


    2015          Lesbian subjectivities: Butch, femme and andro from the New Order to Reformasi Era Indonesia. In Sex and Sexualities in Contemporary Indonesia: Sexual Politics, Health, Diversity and Representations, Linda Rae Bennett and Sharyn Graham Davies, eds., pp. 220-233. Routledge.

    2014          Language and non-normative gender and sexuality in Indonesia.  In Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality. Lal Zimman, Jenny L. Davis, and Josh Raclaw, eds., pp. 81-100. Oxford University Press.

    2012          Ryan Plis and Evelyn Blackwood. Trans technologies and identities in the United States. In Technologies of Sexuality, Identity and Sexual Health. Lenore Manderson, ed., pp. 185-204. New York: Routledge.

    2011          (Trans)gender: Tomboi embodiment. In A Companion to the Anthropology of Bodies/Embodiment. Fran Mascia-Lees, ed. Blackwell Publishing.

    2010          “Lesbians,” modernity and global translation: Female sexualities in Indonesia. In Routledge Handbook of Sexuality, Health and Rights. Peter Aggleton and Richard Parker, eds., pp. 69-76. London: Routledge.

    2008          Not your average housewife: Minangkabau women rice farmers in West Sumatra. In Women and Work in Indonesia. Michele Ford and Lyn Parker, eds., pp. 17-40.  New York: Routledge.

    2007a        Evelyn Blackwood and Saskia E. Wieringa. Globalization, sexuality and silences: Women’s sexualities and masculinities in an Asian context. In Women’s Sexualities and Masculinities in a Globalizing Asia. Saskia E. Wieringa, Evelyn Blackwood and Abha Bhaiya, eds., pp. 1-20. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.             

    2007b        Transnational sexualities in one place: Indonesian readings. In Women’s Sexualities and Masculinities in a Globalizing Asia. Saskia E. Wieringa, Evelyn Blackwood and Abha Bhaiya, eds., pp. 181-199. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    2006a        Marriage, matrifocality and “missing” men. In Feminist Anthropology: Past, Present, and Future, Pamela L. Geller and Miranda K. Stockett, eds., pp. 73-88.  Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press.

    2006b        Mothers to daughters: Social change and matrilineal kinship in a Minangkabau village. In Globalization and Change in Fifteen Cultures: Born in One World, Living in Another. George Spindler and Janice E. Stockard, eds., pp. 117-143. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    2003          Woman-headed households in agrarian societies: Not just a passing phase. In Gender at Work in Economic Life. Society for Economic Anthropology Monographs, vol. 20. Gracia Clark, ed., pp. 41-59. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.

    2002          Reading sexuality across cultures: Anthropology and theories of sexuality. In Out in Theory: The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Anthropology. Ellen Lewin and William Leap, eds., pp. 69-92. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

    2000          Women’s intimate friendships and other affairs: An ethnographic overview.  In Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective, 3rd & 4th ed. Carolyn Brettel and Caroline Sargent, eds., pp. 237-247. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    1999a        Evelyn Blackwood and Saskia Wieringa. Sapphic Shadows: Challenging the silence in the study of sexuality. In Female Desires: Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures, Evelyng Blackwood and Saskia E. Wieringa, eds., pp. 39-63. New York: Columbia University Press.                             

    1999b        Tombois in West Sumatra: Constructing masculinity and erotic desire. In Female Desires: Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures, E. Blackwood and S. Wieringa, eds., pp. 181-205. New York: Columbia University Press.

    1999c        Saskia Wieringa and Evelyn Blackwood. Introduction. In Female Desires: Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures, Evelyn Blackwood and Saskia E. Wieringa, eds., pp. 1-38. New York: Columbia University Press.

    1997          Native American genders and sexualities: Beyond anthropological models and misrepresentations.  In Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality and Spirituality.  Sue-Ellen Jacobs, Wesley Thomas and Sabine Lang, eds., pp. 284-294. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

    1996          Cross-cultural lesbian studies: Problems and possibilities.  In The New Lesbian Studies: Into the Twenty-First Century.  Bonnie Zimmerman and Toni McNaron, eds., pp. 194-200. New York: The Feminist Press.

    1995a        Falling in love with an-other lesbian: Reflections on identity in fieldwork. In Taboo: Sex, Identity and Erotic Subjectivity in Anthropological Fieldwork, D. Kulick and M. Willson, eds., pp. 51-75.  New York: Routledge Press.

    1995b        Senior women, model mothers and dutiful wives: Managing gender contradictions in a Minang­kabau village.  In Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia, A. Ong and M. Peletz, eds., pp. 124-158. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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