Sunday, May 10, 2009

FGM versus Female Genital Cutting, again...and on Mother's Day....Oye

I am probably behind the times, as usual, but I just noticed this nice little, succinct article with a pithy title at The American Prospect:

Rights Versus Rites: When it comes to the lives of women around the globe, do local traditions ever trump human rights? Michelle Goldberg | April 28, 2009

One of those pieces were the media is catching up with our own anthropological debate; it, once again, explores the arguments of Fuambai Ahmadu and Richard Shweder, which I assume we all know well?

Those of you who are looking for usable links for students, many are contained here at the NYT's Tierney Lab blog, I link them up on Blackboard for my students as readers of this blog may recall, we have, as yet, limited journal access at my institution of lower learning. That particular blog post resulted from the 2007 AAA discussions about the issue.

Anyway, what I like about The American Prospect Piece is the way the journalist tried to push the discussion beyond the polemic and the cause du jour of what she labels "fashionable thirdworldism" to suggest we might want to, actually, pay attention to what is happening "on the ground", so to speak. At least, that is the implication when she tells us the story of Agnes Pareyio (who was honored as UN in Kenya person of the year), a story just as meaningful as that of Fuambai Ahmadu.

Unfortunately, I don't think she truly embraced where her story lead her. Maybe just maybe all female genital cuttings aren't the same and maybe just maybe all Africans aren't the same. Could we (whoever "we" are), as Socet laments in his comment on the last blog post, stop viewing everything from the us/them lens and try for some more nuanced understandings of locally produced meanings. I, personally, always thought that was what our discipline did best. You know, bottoms up, you all...not tops down.

Oh, and by the way...sometimes Maasai women don't look like "Maasai women". Shocking, isn't it.


G Man said...

Thanks for your post. Would humbly submit that the experience of Tostan in Senegal is a "third way" between Schweder's illogical arguments of no-harm and the veiled cultural imperialism and hypocrisy found in many "Anti-FGM" campaigns. Tostan, which prides itself on reinforcing traditional culture, unexpectedly had a group of women question the practice of FGC and why it was practiced. That was in 1997. Since then many communities have abandoned the practice--but not because some outside group told them to. Some don't abandon, but choose to work on other things. Tostan sees itself as giving communities a stake in their own development, and operates something like a broker between communities and the international development machine.

Pamthropologist said...

Thank you, G Man.

Now, if America could only have some nicely funded, community-led development groups working against breast implants, the world would be in greater harmony.