Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Rising Anthills: African and African American Writing on Female Genital Excision, 1960-2000

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Rising Anthills: African and African American Writing on Female Genital Excision, 1960-2000

Article excerpt

Rising Anthills: African and African American Writing on Female Genital Excision, 1960-2000. By Elisabeth Bekers. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010. Pp. xii, 262; bibliography, index. $34.95 paper.

In this concise book, Elisabeth Bekers, a lecturer on British and Postcolonial Literatures at the Vrije Universiteit and Erasmushogeschool, Brussels, analyzes twentieth-century literature on female genital excision by African and African American writers. She has organized the literature- novels and novellas, short stories, plays, and a poem, written in English, French, and Arabic- into three chapters based on chronology and approach. At the outset she explains that while as a Westerner she disapproves of the practice, she prefers to call it female genital "excision" rather than "mutilation" because it is "nonderogatory." She argues that the outraged reactions of Westerners have drowned out the voices of Africans, both men and women, who have been discussing the practice since the 1960s. We can listen to their voices in this book.

The first chapter focuses on literature that appeared between 1963 and 1974 when authors were concerned with the impact of colonization on African societies. Some of these authors tend to consider the practice of female genital excision a central aspect of traditional culture that should be celebrated while others lament that it had become politicized during the resistance movement or argued that it should be treated as only one part of a wider complex of unequal gender roles.

In Chapter 2, Beckers surveys literature written between 1968 and 1988, when writers began to focus on the violence of the practice as part of the wider misogynistic repression of women by corrupt national governments. …

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