Olsson has been engaged in research on South Indian society, culture,
and religion for more than 25 years. Before moving to Kristianstad University
College he was connected to the Dept. of Theology and Religious Studies at Lund University. He defended his doctoral dissertation at Lund University
in 1988 on a thesis called ”Folkökning, Fattigdom, Religion. Objektivitetsproblem I högstadiets läromedel 1960-1985 med särskild inriktning på Indien- och U-landsbilden” (Plus Ultra publishing),
a critical study of the problem of objectivity in teaching materials about developing nations, with special reference to India. Faculty Opponent was
Dr. Karl Reinhold Haellquist, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Copenhagen.
During the years 199198 he made a comparative study
in Tamil Nadu of the Belief Systems among local
Hindu religious leaders, villagers and members of a South Indian nomadic
tribe called Vagris; a study financed by the Research council HSFR.
The research was carried out in collaboration with Professor Dick
Haglund, at the Dept of Religious Studies,
After that Olsson has made similar studies in Italy (on the island of
Sardinia, as well as on the mainland) to obtain a better perspective on
how people from different places and backgrounds explain the phenomena
of Good and Evil in their lives.
Since 1999 Torvald Olsson has been engaged in an ethnological
and historical, comparative study, funded by Sida/SAREC, of the phenomena
of infanticide in South India. Because of the prevalence of infanticide
there is a sharp difference in the number of men and women in certain
dry and poor districts of South India (in Salem and Dharmapuri districts
of Tamil Nadu), whereas in other parts of South India there is no difference
at all. The research deals with which factors demographic, economic,
social and cultural are determining this difference.
In November 2006, Torvald Olsson received SEK 900 000 as
a three-years grant from Sida's Developing Country
Research Council (U-landsforskningsrådet) for
a new research project titled ”Health,
Gender, and Demography: A Sociocultural study of Mother and Child Healthcare
in two Indian states”. It is a comparative, longitudinal,
and phenomenological-ethnological life world analysis project, focusing
on the relative and absolute deprivations in health accessibility in
the states of Tamil Nadu and Bihar. More information
about South Asia related Sida grants 2006. This project was finally launched in July 2010. It will be carried out duirng a three-year period (2010 to 2012) and planned with the collaboration of Shahid Perwez.
The project has been planned
for together with Shahid
Perwez, research scholar of Sociology at the School of Social and Political Studies,
University of Edinburgh, UK.
Pervez participated in the 18th ECMSAS conference, organised by SASNET
in Lund in July 2004, in Panel No. 11
about ”Education, health and demographic changes in South Asia”.
He presented a paper titled
”Post-Colonial Understanding of Female Infanticide in North and
South India”, dealing exactly with the issue why female infanticide,
which was claimed to be effectively controlled in colonial India, has
appeared in post-colonial India in communities and regions where it was
previously unknown. He has examined the subject of female infanticide
in North and South India in the light of empirical data.
information about Shahid Pervez.
Extramural activities related to South Asia
Out of the many years of research on the vagri community
in Tamil Nadu, Torvald Olsson developed a commitment to work for the
uplift of these people. Along with student group he led to India in 1989
he created the organisation the Association for the
Liberation of Vagris and Other Minority groups, ALVOM.
From 1991 Alvom worked together with the Indian Council for Child Welfare,
ICCW, and got financial support from the Swedish International Development
Cooperation Agency, SIDA, to fund for children both in Chennai and on
the Tamil Nady countryside. It also supported a school project for Munda
people in Orissa. Since 1995, Alvom has concentrated more on a health
and village development project in the village Irupalli, close to Salem
in Tamil Nadu, southern India.
The organization was closed in 2008.
recent years Torvald Olsson has also been engaged in visualising the infaniticide
problem for an audience in Europe and India, through a cooperation
with the South Indian Bharata Natyam artist Sarangarajan
Vijayalakshmi from Chennai. A dance
drama called ”Love’s Wisdom in the Last Era”,
sponsored by Sida) was performed during a couple of years. The performances always included lectures on the issue by Torvald Olsson. In India it was
shown out in villages where infanticide is prevalent, and was used a a
form of mass mobilisation against the horrific practice.
In August-September 2003 another dance drama was performed, fully produced
by Torvald Olsson. It was called ”Akkamahadevi”,
and dealt with a legendary woman living in what is now the Indian state
of Karnataka, in the 12th Century A.D. (Photo to the right).
The dance drama, supported by the
Swedish Institute and Kristianstad University College, had its premiere
in Bangalore, India, on 27 July 2003 with representatives from the Karnataka
state government and the Akkamahadevi Samiti organisation. In Sweden it
was performed on the island of Gotland and at the castle Bäckaskog
north of Kristianstad.
In 2004 Olsson has developed his methods of using dance dramas and also
film as pedagogic tools, and made a video production of ”Love’s
Wisdom in the Last Era”. More
information on this (in Swedish only).