Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan

By Shankar, Shobana | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, September 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan


Shankar, Shobana, The International Journal of African Historical Studies


Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan. By Janice Boddy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007. Pp. xxvii, 320; 10 illustrations. $24.95 paper.

Janice Boddy's Civilizing Women is an ambitious project. Her primary concern is to locate the vigorous crusade against female genital cutting within a history of British colonial campaigns focused on bodily practices, including slavery, hygiene, and medicalized birth. In so doing, her study examines how the Sudanese and British understood themselves through their interaction. As Boddy traces different practices of "trying-on ... other selves that in the process invariably affirmed the value of one's own" (p. 81), her work challenges us to consider methods-historical and anthropological-of giving voice to different actors, especially women.

In the first of three parts, Boddy intersperses the history of Gordon's campaign against the Mahdi's army and Britain's eventual "quiet conquest" with ethnographic interludes on zayran, "spirit analogues" of historical actors. Part 2 focuses on discourses and practices related to reproduction that drew indigenous women into the colonial economy. This section identifies the first movement against genital cutting in the aftermath of the 1924 rebellion against British efforts to divest Egyptian power in Sudan and transfer it to themselves. With "pacification" occurring through expanding native administration, regulation of cotton production, and "localization" of regional and ethnic hierarchies as an antidote to nationalism, the stage was set for efforts to manage reproduction.

Part 3 turns to medical efforts that escalated around 1930 with the Wolff sisters' direction of the Midwives Training Service. Boddy deftly shows how the Wolffs were "keen ethnographers" (p. 214) in recognizing the impossibility of completely abolishing genital cutting and thus used a relativistic approach. They targeted pharaonic circumcision while tolerating excision and other habits that made midwives "missionaries in the homes of people" (p. 212). Boddy traces the circuitous routes of these projects and concludes that criminalizing cutting only divided crusaders themselves and promoted "illicit" economies among Sudanese.

Parts 1 and 3 are the most successful for their effective illustration of the cultural politics that made the bodies of Muslim Arab women the field for activists. They show convincingly the Christian and colonial roots of cunent struggles over circumcision, as well as the changing moralities of international and cross-cultural activism. This perspective will rankle some, but it is important and documented with rigor. Boddy clearly shows-using evidence such as Pears soap advertisements featuring wild-looking dervishes and debates over female education-how civilizing projects moved from men to women and from comparisons between Europeans and Africans to particularizing Sudanese ethnicities. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.