Cover image for Female "circumcision" in Africa : culture, controversy, and change
Female "circumcision" in Africa : culture, controversy, and change
Shell-Duncan, Bettina, 1963-
Publication Information:
Boulder : Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000.
Physical Description:
viii, 349 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm.
Female "circumcision" in Africa: dimensions of the practice and debates / Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund -- Is female "circumcision" a maladaptive cultural pattern? / Ellen Gruenbaum -- To marry and bear children? the demographic consequences of infibulation in Sudan / Deborah Balk -- Female "circumcision" among the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria: the beginning of change / I.O. Orubuloye, Pat Caldwell, and John C. Caldwell -- Female genital cutting in Nigeria: views of Nigerian doctors on the medicalization debate / Mairo Usman Mandara -- Women without choices: the debate over medicalization of female genital cutting and its impact on a northern Kenyan community / Bettina Shell-Duncan, Walter Obungu Obiero, and Leunita Auko Muruli -- "Ngaitana (I will circumcise myself)": lessons from colonial campaigns to ban excision in Meru, Kenya / Lynn Thomas -- Revisiting feminist discourses on infibulation: responses from Sudanese feminists / Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf -- Adopting female "circumcision" in southern Chad: the experience of Myabé / Lori Leonard -- Handing over the knife: Numu women and the campaign against excision in Mali / Claudie Gosselin -- Becoming a Muslim, becoming a person: female "circumcision, " religious identity, and personhood in Guinea-Bissau / Michelle C. Johnson -- Cutting without ritual and ritual without cutting: female "circumcision" and the re-ritualization of initiation in the Gambia / Ylva Hernlund -- Female genital cutting: the beginning of the end / Gerry Mackie -- Rites and wrongs: and insider/outsider reflects on power and excision / Fuambai Ahmadu.
Reading Level:
1480 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN484 .F443 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Discourses on women's and international human rights recast the traditional practice of female circumcision as the human rights violation of female genital mutilation. Following a table summarizing its prevalence, contributors to 14 essays join the debate over this African Muslim custom. The title "Cutting without ritual and ritual without cutting" encapsulates the overall tone, but responses from Sudanese feminists are also included. Shell-Duncan teaches anthropology at the U. of Washington, where Hernlund is a doctoral candidate in that field. The other scholars come from North America, Nigeria, Kenya, Australia, and the UK. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In their excellent introduction to this collection of essays, the editors (an assistant professor and a graduate student, both from the University of Washington's anthropology department) write that "female `circumcision' has emerged as a test case for cultural relativism as scholars struggle with how to approach the issue intellectually, emotionally, and morally." Thirteen subsequent chapters present a variety of viewpoints, sometimes conflicting with and sometimes repeating one another, but all honestly tackling the issues just mentioned without relying heavily on rhetoric or ideology. Some contributions are ethnological, others use a survey/applied research approach, and still others are mainly theoretical. As a whole, the volume succeeds in deflating many widely held assumptions about female "circumcision" (consistently put in quotation marks, to the point of annoyance) and in raising important questions about these widespread and highly contested practices. Students, scholars, policymakers, and rights advocates will learn a great deal from this provocative and timely book. Recommended for academic collections in anthropology, African and black studies, women's studies, and human rights.DJay H. Bernstein, Fordham Univ. Lib., Bronx, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Contextualizing emotionally charged debates about the surgical reconfiguration of adolescent bodies can be quite daunting. Yet when contextualization is attuned to the cross-talk between different discursive communities, it can be immensely useful as well, as this multidisciplinary volume on female circumcision in Africa attests. The editors have gathered contributors from different fields of study and parts of the world (anthropology, public health, history, political science, demography; Africa, North America, Europe) to examine the practice of female circumcision, the local and international debates surrounding it, and the role scholars can and should play in addressing it. Case studies drawn from Kenya, the Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, and the Gambia tease out the varied meanings assigned to the practice and the wide-ranging circumstances that both support and impede its adoption, persistence, and eradication. What makes the volume especially appealing is that it makes room for the voices of African women intellectuals who have undergone circumcision, thus laying the groundwork for more culturally nuanced discussions of women's sexuality, women's health, and women's rights. Upper-division undergraduates and above. B. Bianco; Vassar College

Table of Contents

Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva HernlundEllen GruenbaumDeborah BalkI. O. Orubuloye and Pat Caldwell and John C. CaldwellMairo Usman MandaraBettina Shell-Duncan and Walter Obungu Obiero and Leunita Auko MuruliLynn ThomasRogaia Mustafa AbusharafLori LeonardClaudie GosselinMichelle C. JohnsonYlva HernlundGerry MackieFuambai Ahmadu
Prefacep. vii
1 Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Dimensions of the Practice and Debatesp. 1
2 Is Female "Circumcision" a Maladaptive Cultural Pattern?p. 41
3 To Marry and Bear Children? The Demographic Consequences of Infibulation in Sudanp. 55
4 Female "Circumcision" Among the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria: The Beginning of Changep. 73
5 Female Genital Cutting in Nigeria: Views of Nigerian Doctors on the Medicalization Debatep. 95
6 Women Without Choices: The Debate over Medicalization of Female Genital Cutting and Its Impact on a Northern Kenyan Communityp. 109
7 "Ngaitana (I Will Circumcise Myself)": Lessons from Colonial Campaigns to Ban Excision in Meru, Kenyap. 129
8 Revisiting Feminist Discourses on Infibulation: Responses from Sudanese Feministsp. 151
9 Adopting Female "Circumcision" in Southern Chad: The Experience of Myabep. 167
10 Handing over the Knife: Numu Women and the Campaign Against Excision in Malip. 193
11 Becoming a Muslim, Becoming a Person: Female "Circumcision," Religious Identity, and Personhood in Guinea-Bissaup. 215
12 Cutting Without Ritual and Ritual Without Cutting: Female "Circumcision" and the Re-ritualization of Initiation in the Gambiap. 235
13 Female Genital Cutting: The Beginning of the Endp. 253
14 Rites and Wrongs: An Insider/Outsider Reflects on Power and Excisionp. 283
Bibliographyp. 313
The Contributorsp. 331
Indexp. 333
About the Bookp. 349