Recontextualizing the Debate Surrounding Debate Surrounding Female Genital Operations: Deconstructing binaries, searching for inclusivity, and reevaluating the role of the anthropologist Open Access

Grayman, Samantha O'Neil (2015)

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The topic of female genital operations finds itself at the center of one of the most polarized and controversial debates of anthropology today. Popular Western discourses, which are directly related to a thorough and fairly recent history of Western imperialism and colonialism, have tended to oversimplify and essentialize a rather messy reality into reductionist terms. The current discourse thus reflects a reality in which female genital operations are discussed within the boundaries of monolithic categories and constructed binaries, all of which have limited the space for a diverse array of voices to emerge as valid. This paper explores the history of female genital operations as a topic of interest to the Western lens as well as the ways in which contemporary Western discourse continues to create limited space for dynamic individuals, predominantly women of color from the global south, to engage with a topic that directly affects them. This paper also explores the treatment of female genital operations through the anthropological perspective, revealing the ways in which anthropology has also contributed to the shaping of contemporary discourse surrounding the topic. Through key informant interviews and two case studies, this research unveils the complex, multifarious voices of women who have had different experiences with the processes of female genital operations. This work seeks to reveal the ways in which these women negotiate the rather limited space of the wider discourse, challenging binaries and monolithic categories through their existence as dynamic individuals with varying experiences. Ultimately, this paper demonstrates the limitations of contemporary discourse, arguing for a radical reconstruction of the conversation altogether.

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction 9

Chapter One: Entering the Field 20

Chapter Two: Finding Voices, Challenging Binaries 28

Chapter Three: Contextualizing Contemporary Discourse 38

Conclusion 61

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