Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context

Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context

Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context

Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context


Female circumcision or, more precisely, female genital cutting (FGC), remains an important cultural practice in many African countries, often serving as a coming-of-age ritual. It is also a practice that has generated international dispute and continues to be at the center of debates over women's rights, the limits of cultural pluralism, the balance of power between local cultures, international human rights, and feminist activism. In our increasingly globalized world, these practices have also begun immigrating to other nations, where transnational complexities vex debates about how to resolve the issue. Bringing together thirteen essays, Transcultural Bodies provides an ethnographically rich exploration of FGC among African diasporas in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia. The contributors analyze changes in ideologies of gender and sexuality in immigrant communities, the frequent marginalization of African women's voices in debates over FGC, and controversies over legislation restricting the practice in immigrant populations.


This volume has been some time in the making, and we are deeply appreciative of the patience and perseverance of each one of our contributors. The idea for the project first arose as we were engaged in editing a previous volume, Female “Circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change, and realized that its scope would not allow us to include chapters related to the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) “on the move.”

We wish to thank Charles Piot for strongly encouraging us to take on this project, providing the initial push we needed in order to commit to another complex edited volume, and Janelle Taylor for her steadfast support at a critical juncture. Fuambai Ahmadu started out as coeditor of this volume, but unfortunately other commitments forced her to withdraw. Nonetheless, her influence on the work is unmistakable. Any errors, however, are naturally the sole responsibility of the editors.

In working on this project we have benefited from being able to observe discussions about FGC in a wide variety of sites. In particular, we gained a great deal of insight from several meetings and conferences. Ylva Hernlund in 2003 delivered a keynote address and made invaluable connections with European activists and academics at the FOKO (Network for Research on Female Circumcision, based at the University of Oslo, Norway) conference held in Sweden. Bettina Shell-Duncan participated in 2002 in a Rockefeller Foundation–sponsored meeting in Bellagio, Italy, on research directions for FGM, which brought together program managers, technical officers from international organizations, and academic researchers. Additionally, attending the 2004 USAID-sponsored Washington, D.C., conference commemorating the first anniversary of “Zero Tolerance Day,” as well as the adjacent congressional hearing, provided valuable information about efforts to guide the global movement on FGC in particular directions. We have also benefited tremendously from our communications with Molly Melching and Gannon Gillespie of Tostan, a Senegal-based nongovernmental organization.

We wish to thank all those colleagues, too numerous to name here, who have over the years shared with us information, ideas, and insights on this topic. Most importantly, however, we must express our sincere gratitude to all those women and men who shared with the contributors to this volume their . . .

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