Chandani Liyanage

I was born in a village in the up-country of Sri Lanka.  I loved learning and collecting folktales, reading novels, climbing mountains, and home gardening.   

My academic career began at Colombo University in Sri Lanka, where I received a merit scholarship to follow my bachelor’s degree. I always knew that I wanted to be a sociologist.  Fortunately, Colombo University allowed me to explore all facets of sociology from theory to practice that included rural sociology, urban sociology, development sociology, contemporary social issues, social policy, social administration and social development, gender studies and social psychology. My first piece of research during undergraduate programme was on the socialization of children with intellectual disabilities in a rural community. I was strongly motivated to explore the horizon of medical sociology/anthropology while reading for my Master’s Degree in Sociology at the University of Colombo. For this, I analysed illness narratives of patients in a semi-urban community. My curiosity in delving deeper to explore these disciplines continued with my doctoral studies at Delhi University in India where I focused on an ethnographic analysis of social production of health in rural Sri Lanka. This ethnographic study, together with diverse experiences at Delhi University, strengthened my capacity to stand as a medical sociologist/anthropologist in Sri Lankan academia. It was the result of a long rooted journey that I started in the early 1990s as an academic in the Department of Sociology, University of Colombo. I have since carried out a number of qualitative and ethnographic research studies, covering a wide range of issues related to health, illness and wellbeing, including Traditional Medical Practitioners’ behavioural patterns with regard to diagnosis and treatment for leprosy patients; social epidemiology of Chronic Kidney Disease of uncertain aetiology in Sri Lanka (CKDu) with a particular focus on curing between medicine and traditional culture; exploring community based approach for Non Communicable Disease (NCD) prevention in Sri Lanka; and socio-cultural challenges faced by persons with disabilities. 

As a Professor of Medical Sociology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colombo, I had the opportunity to contribute to the novel experience of designing undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum for the Sociology/Anthropology degree programmes and introduced a number of courses related to Medical Sociology/ Anthropology into the medical and nursing curriculum.  Furthermore, I have been involved as a Medical Sociologist/ Anthropologist in a number of multidisciplinary research projects while serving as a member of advisory boards.  

I am now a researcher in the Sri Lankan team of ECLIPSE. I will be advising on qualitative and ethnographic research approaches throughout the different phases of the project.