Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change

Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change

Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change

Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change


The authors critically examine current debates & initiatives on female "circumcision," & explore the role that scholars can & should--or should not--play in approaching the issue.


In 1997 we participated in a panel on “female genital mutilation” at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Although we are both in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington, we were at that time completely unacquainted with one another's work: Ylva Hernlund focuses on sociocultural anthropology and Bettina Shell-Duncan on biocultural anthropology. Minor as this division may seem, it was enough to cause each of us to be unfamiliar with the particular body of knowledge on which the other based her research. As we furthered our interactions, we were struck by the different perspectives we each brought to issues relating to female “circumcision. ” It was this realization that inspired us to examine the topic in a multidisciplinary manner by compiling an edited volume.

We started with a simple process, each writing a “wish list” of people whose work we admired. Then, as we contacted these people, we asked them for further suggestions of scholars whose work they respected. It was primarily through this process that we expanded our list (although other linkages were made in more unorthodox ways—Ylva Hernlund and Fuambai Ahmadu struck up a casual conversation in a market café in the Gambia and soon came to realize the complementary nature of each other's work).

Completion of this volume has been much more than an administrative task of assembling chapters encompassing a broad range of scholarly perspectives. It has been an extraordinary learning experience in which we, as editors and authors, deepened our appreciation and understanding of diverse approaches. Our hard-working contributors eagerly exchanged drafts of manuscripts and participated in discussions that expanded debates and sharpened the focus of each of the contributed chapters.

We wish to extend our gratitude to each of the contributors for their willingness to participate in this process, for the great deal of effort and thought that each one of them contributed to this project, and for the insights they brought to this manuscript. Specifically, we wish to thank Lynn Thomas, who read and commented on an early version of Chapter 1 and contributed several of its subheadings; Claudie Gosselin, who shared with us the unpublished paper that gave us the subheading “The Trivialization of Culture”; Fuambai . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.