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by Ellen Gruenbaum

Download The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective eBook
ISBN:
0812235738
Author:
Ellen Gruenbaum
Category:
Social Sciences
Language:
English
Publisher:
Univ of Pennsylvania Pr (December 1, 2000)
Pages:
242 pages
EPUB book:
1503 kb
FB2 book:
1432 kb
DJVU:
1947 kb
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Rating:
4.6
Votes:
185


In The Female Circumcision Controversy, Ellen Gruenbaum points out that Western outrage and Western efforts to stop genital mutilation often provoke a strong backlash from people in the countries where the practice is common

In The Female Circumcision Controversy, Ellen Gruenbaum points out that Western outrage and Western efforts to stop genital mutilation often provoke a strong backlash from people in the countries where the practice is common. She looks at the validity of Western arguments against the practice.

But few understand the real life complexities families face in deciding whether to follow the traditional practices or to take the risk of change. In The Female Circumcision Controversy, Ellen Gruenbaum points out that Western outrage and Western efforts to stop genital mutilation often provoke a strong backlash from people in the countries where the practice is common. She looks at the validity of Western arguments against the practice

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Female genital circumcision is a procedure that requires the excision of some tissues that form the female genitalia.

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. It is an old tradition that exists predominantly in Africa, and has, of late, become a very contentious and controversial issue in the international community. There are various grounds for this controversy, one of which is the contention by rights advocates that female circumcision is gratuitous violence against women in the form genital mutilation, and should be abolished.

The horror female circumcision evokes is grist for outrage, electrifying a cry for urgent change

The horror female circumcision evokes is grist for outrage, electrifying a cry for urgent change. At the new millennium, there are still millions of girls and women in dozens of countries who bear the scars of cutting done to their genitalia early in life. Worldwide, it is estimated that an additional two million girls too young to give their consent undergo some form of female genital cutting each year

She takes on a cultural relativistic point of view, exploring female circumcision through the context of the different cultures in which it is practiced, highlighting how it can be affected by patriarchy, ritual, marriage, mortality, ethnicity, sexuality, and economic development.

The Female Circumcision Controversy An Anthropological Perspective. 256 pages 6 x 9 8 illus. This book is essential reading for Africanists, public health specialists, and those interested in the intersections of gender, culture, and societal development everywhere. -Studies in Family Planning. This smart, systematic analysis of a practice that has multiple histories, forms, and meanings is the.

Through telling pictures and vivid descriptions, Gruenbaum compels the reader to keep an open mind and to be tolerant as she tries to mend the gap in knowledge surrounding circumcision, constantly reminding the reader of the importance of cultural context. -Arab Studies Journal.

The Female Circumcision Controversy book. Start by marking The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective as Want to Read: Want to Read savin. ant to Read.

In The Female Circumcision Controversy, Ellen Gruenbaum points out that Western outrage and Western efforts to stop genital mutilation often provoke a strong backlash from people in the countries where the practice is common

In The Female Circumcision Controversy, Ellen Gruenbaum points out that Western outrage and Western efforts to stop genital mutilation often provoke a strong backlash from people in the countries where the practice is common.

Female genital mutilation: a guide to laws and policies worldwide. New York: Zed Books, 2000. For questions or feedback, please reach us at support at scilit.

To the Western eye, there is something jarringly incongruous, even shocking, about the image of a six-year-old girl being held down by loving relatives so that her genitals can be cut. Yet two million girls experience this each year. Most Westerners, upon learning of the practice of female circumcision, have responded with outrage; those committed to improving the status of women have gone beyond outrage to action by creating various programs for "eradicating" the practice. But few understand the real life complexities families face in deciding whether to follow the traditional practices or to take the risk of change.In The Female Circumcision Controversy, Ellen Gruenbaum points out that Western outrage and Western efforts to stop genital mutilation often provoke a strong backlash from people in the countries where the practice is common. She looks at the validity of Western arguments against the practice. In doing so, she explores both outsider and insider perspectives on female circumcision, concentrating particularly on the complex attitudes of the individuals and groups who practice it and on indigenous efforts to end it. Gruenbaum finds that the criticisms of outsiders are frequently simplistic and fail to appreciate the diversity of cultural contexts, the complex meanings, and the conflicting responses to change.Drawing on over five years of fieldwork in Sudan, where the most severe forms of genital surgery are common, Gruenbaum shows that the practices of female circumcision are deeply embedded in Sudanese cultural traditions—in religious, moral, and aesthetic values, and in ideas about class, ethnicity, and gender. Her research illuminates both the resistance to and the acceptance of change. She shows that change is occurring as the result of economic and social developments, the influences of Islamic activists, the work of Sudanese health educators, and the efforts of educated African women. That does not mean that there is no role for outsiders, Gruenbaum asserts, and she offers suggestions for those who wish to help facilitate change.By presenting specific cultural contexts and human experiences with a deep knowledge of the tremendous variation of the practice and meaning of female circumcision, Gruenbaum provides an insightful analysis of the process of changing this complex, highly debated practice.

  • Flathan
I bought this book for an ethics class research paper. I had looked at a lot of research regarding female circumcision and was prepared to write paper loaded with righteous indignation over the practice. But, before I had even finished the introduction, my viewpoint was changing. This book made me look at the practice of female circumcision with a much less biased perspective. I was made to see what people within the cultures that practice it think about it. Do I still think that it is a terrible thing to do? Of course! But, I can see why it is done and I can see why simply trying to end the practice by force will be counterproductive. My thanks to the author for helping me learn something.
  • Painwind
Great introduction to the subject, but also explains away the barbarism of the practice by humanizing its adherents. Highly recommended if you are interested in gender and development or medical anthropology.
  • Ohatollia
Intresting book
  • romrom
great
  • Doulkree
Good, quick transaction. Book on good shape. Excellent purchase. Tons of great info in this book. Mostly a western perspective, and anyone who resists patriarchy
  • Timberahue
This review is of both this book and Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund's "Female Circumcision." The rating is just for this book.

A seemingly endless parade of more-or-less interchangeable articles and books about female genital cutting (FGC) appeared in the 80's and 90's, each apparently attempting to outdo the last in the ferocity of its denunciation of the patriarchy, its explanations as to why FGC is nothing at all like male genital cutting (MGC) and its affirmation of the horrors of FGC. Recent years have gifted us with a triumvirate of fresh, insightful books, willing to re-examine all aspects of the topic, puncturing tired old dogma with insightful scholarship and refreshing skepticism. (The newest of these three works, the recently published Genital Cutting and Transnational Sisterhood, edited by Stanlie M. James and Claire C. Robertson, will be reviewed next issue.)

The opening chapter of Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change, written by its editors, makes it clear we are in for quite a ride with this book. Shell-Duncan and Hernlund question the accuracy of the "laundry list of adverse health outcomes" so pervasive in earlier works on FGC, noting that they often stem from "observations by British colonial surgeons and gynecologists in the 1930s and 1940s." Self-reported retrospective survey data, the bread and butter basis for the contentions of old-school FGC writing, suffers from recall bias. The editors argue that FGC is often less extensive than is assumed (for example, infibulation often leaves the clitoris intact) and also note evidence that other sex organs partially compensate for loss of sexual pleasure by becoming more sensitive. Shell-Duncan and Hernlund highlight the striking absence from the literature of systematic evaluations of FGC's impact on fertility, and also stress the ceremonial importance of both FGC and MGC as markers of transition from androgynous childhood into gendered adulthood.

The book's authors repeatedly allude to critics who have inquired into the basis for ignoring male circumcision while opposing even a ceremonial nick of female genitalia.
Increasing trends away from traditional practitioners and toward medicalization of FGC in Africa is changing the nature and impact of the practices. Several authors discuss the growing African backlash against western feminist opposition to FGC, which all too often is superficial and ideological, lacking sensitivity to the procedure's cultural meanings. Lynn Thomas, writing about Kenyan campaigns to eliminate FGC, notes that Africans have come to resent Westerners' focus on their practices while neglecting more pressing developmental issues such as the need for adequate food and water and for control of AIDS.

Several authors springboard their own analyses off of Janice Boddy's seminal 1982 study interpreting genital cutting as symbolically accentuating women's fertility by deemphasizing their sexuality. Both Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf and Gerry Mackie raise fascinating cross-cultural comparisons with Chinese footbinding, noting that mothers in both cultures provide almost identical rationales (enhanced marriage prospects, conformity) for forcibly modifying their daughters' bodies in what they portray as an act of "mother's love." Mackie provides a fascinating analysis of analogies between FGC and Chinese footbinding, writing that "both customs are nearly universal where practiced, are persistent, and are practiced even by people who oppose them." He shows that eliminating both practices requires the offering of a socially acceptable alternative to avoid the potential disaster of loss of girls' marriageability. Associations of parents must join together and pledge to favor marriages of their sons to uncut women, as was done in China with footbinding. Such practices, according to Mackie, tend either to end rapidly or persist indefinitely, as was the case with footbinding, which lasted for 1,000 years and then ended within a generation. For her part, Abusharaf painstakingly yet fairly takes the notoriously intransigent Fran Hosken to task for her egregious oversimplifications of "the complex tapestry of values that account for [FGC's] resilience among a wide range of societies," which ironically renders Hosken's own work ethnocentric and fatally unconcerned with the "specificity of women's experience."

In the next chapter, Lori Leonard, writing about the recent adoption (!) of FGC in Southern Chad, similarly critiques Mary Daly's interpretations of FGC which ignore "socioeconomic, political and historical context, us[ing] inflammatory and distancing language... and thereby effectively alienate precisely those women whom they purport to help." Leonard intriguingly notes that infibulation may have started in certain countries as "a practical solution to the need to control body odors, particularly those produced by menstruation, given off by female herders." Claudie Gosselin writes that in Mali she has found "a significant number of people who felt insulted by the statements of anticircumcision activists because the information presented contradicted their own knowledge and common sense."

Michelle C. Johnson comments that Muslim Mandinga populations in Guinea-Bissau "linked circumcision for boys and clitoridectomy for girls first and foremost to religious identity--a factor that has been significantly less explored in the ethnographic literature on the subject." Women in these communities believe circumcision is necessary for them to have the right to pray. For both males and females, stoically enduring the cutting is highly valued as demonstrating strength and courage. Moreover, the pain and suffering from the initiation play "a transformative role that extends beyond the ritual context of initiation into everyday life." Mandinga women consider the actual cutting of the clitoris to be the most important part of the initiation.

A number of the book's contributors show that legislation and other external attempts to "eradicate" FGC have proven to be poor tools for social change, as consciousness-raising from within is much more effective. Ylva Hernlund notes that legal approaches can be counterproductive; fear that a law will be passed can lead to all girls being circumcised "before it is too late." Mackie writes that a "legal prohibition is most appropriate at the climax of the national process of abandonment, not at its beginning." He adds that criminalizing a practice before most people oppose it will be ineffective, which may suggest a cautionary message for those of us tempted to rely primarily or exclusively on legal techniques in our efforts to eliminate male circumcision in North America.

Several authors decry the unjustified conflation of various forms of FGC and an overemphasis in the literature on the less common but more drastic infibulation. A number of the book's contributors write that in direct contradiction of feminist dogma, females tend to defend the institution of FGC more vigorously than their male counterparts. Males also speak more negatively about their own initiations relative to females. While we find FGC horrifying, as Mackie fearlessly writes, "for an insider FGC is more like dentistry than it is like violence."

The most fascinating article comes last. Fuambai Ahmadu, born and raised in her "formative years" in Sierra Leone, has spent the majority of her life in Washington, D.C. but decide to return to her home village and undergo its excision rite. Ahmadu relates her harrowing yet fascinating tale with admirable honesty, intelligence and perspective, not to mention virtually unparalleled authority, concluding that today, in the wake of her own excision, she is "'neutral' in terms of continuation of the practice."

No single author could possibly produce a book as broad-ranging as the volume edited by Shell-Duncan and Hernlund, but Ellen Gruenbaum gives it her best shot. Based on her five years of work in the rural Sudan with infibulating communities, she offers us a thoughtful and engaging meditation on cultural, social and physical aspects of FGC, Gruenbaum "categorically reject[s] the simplistic analysis that female `circumcision' is a conspiracy of men to oppress women." She shows that FGC is not "a single phenomenon with a single purpose such as `controlling women' or `suppressing female sexuality.'" Trained as an anthropologist, the author analyzes her experiences as they relate to the suggestion that patriarchy explains FGC, the ritual and its meanings, marriage and morality, ethnicity (circumcision status often serves as a marker of one's tribal identity), sexuality (Gruenbaum's subjects made it clear to her they did experience orgasm), and economic development. Female circumcision, the author writes, "offers a major test of whether it is possible to reconcile cultural relativist respect for cultural diversity with the desire to improve the lives of girls and women across cultural boundaries."

Regarding the potential for eliminating the practices, Gruenbaum notes that "women's insecure position in society needs to change before fundamental rejection of circumcision can be achieved." The possibility of developing alternative rites is mentioned, such as the Kenyan example of "circumcision through words" in which no cutting is done. Gruenbaum's book includes a helpful list of organizations focused on FGC and mentioning NOCIRC along with eight other groups.

Useful charts and maps in both books help to render more accessible and comprehensible the sometimes bewildering range of prevalence and type of practice in Africa's different countries. Bettina Shell-Duncan & Ylva Hernlund and Ellen Gruenbaum have crafted engaging, thought-provoking works likely to prove invaluable in the years ahead as attention to analogies and differences between MGC and FGC can be expected to grow.
  • Onnell
In "The Female Circumcision Controversy," Ellen Gruenbaum provides readers with a highly informative anthropological perspective on female circumcision that is not weighed down with anthropological jargon, making it highly accessible to the "average" reader. She takes on a cultural relativistic point of view, exploring female circumcision through the context of the different cultures in which it is practiced, highlighting how it can be affected by patriarchy, ritual, marriage, mortality, ethnicity, sexuality, and economic development. An important point that Gruenbaum stresses is that while female circumcision has been practiced by many cultural and ethnic groups, the practices themselves vary (i.e. what is removed in surgery, at what age circumcision occurs, etc.) and this point makes it hard to generalize and blame only one factor for female circumcision. She includes her experiences in the Sudan and at the end of the book discusses how female circumcision practices are changing and the how we in the international community can get involved.
Gruenbaum does not condone female circumcision but she believes that many anti-circumcision advocates have taken the wrong approach to fighting the harmful practice. She stresses the need for discussion (not one-sided lecturing) and the fact that other problems such as economic insecurity and education need to be addressed so women will not feel as compelled to continue female circumcision. While a lot needs to be done to ensure that women's rights are not infringed upon, Gruenbaum gives the reader hope by showing many cases of progress.
This book is a gem! It has also made me rethink some things that I thought were "normal" in my culture.
I had to read this book for an anthropology class in my freshman year at college. It's a real eye-opener. I had no idea before this book that FGM was practiced anywhere outside of Africa. The description of what can be done was enough to make me mildly uncomfortable (inserting a straw during the healing process to make an extremely small hole for urination and menstruation?) but I could not put the book down. I have a drastically different perspective of this practice now that I understand more of it's cultural significance, rather than seeing it as a cruelty carried out to keep women in a totally inferior state.