Tag Archives: Anthropology

The science devoted to the comparative study of man.

Kallestein: The Cut

Midwifery Today, 2009, issue 90

The Cut

Kallestein LM


I was just about to witness a young girl have her genitals cut off at the hand of her mother. Intentionally. With a razor blade. The government official, who should have prevented it from happening, smiled his semi-toothless smile at me, from outside the boma (homestead).

The chief respected the traditional law of no men allowed inside the ring of mud huts during the ceremony. He had no respect for the crime against Kenyan law that was about to take place, or the gross violation of basic human rights—a violent act against a helpless child…

The razor blade reflected the rays of the rising sun.

All around were smiles and hushed laughter. Expectations. The main focus for most of the people standing in and around the boma was to get it over with, but not out of sympathy for 14-year-old Mary, who stood shivering as the sun made its way above the horizon. They simply couldn’t wait for it to be party time.

And my role in all of this? I was the guest of honor….

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Labia Minora Elongation and its implications on the health of women: A Systematic Review

Int J Sex Health. 2013. DOI:10.1080/19317611.2013.851139LME

Labia Minora Elongation and its implications on the health of women: A Systematic Review

Martínez Pérez G, Tomás Aznar C, Bagnol B


Labia Minora Elongation is a female genital modification practice categorized among the types included in the fourth group of female genital mutilation. In this paper we display the results of a systematic review of the evidence-based knowledge published on the health risks and benefits of Labia Minora Elongation as informed by African female respondents who are insiders of the practice. No other systematic review on this specific topic has been published before. A methodological bibliographic search was done in scientific databases, by manual referencing and by contacting experts on this area of knowledge. Seventeen papers turned out eligible for this review, which correspond to nine different studies. Eight of these studies were conducted in Eastern and Southern African countries and one was carried out in Italy. This review concludes that pain at the beginning of the practice, nuisances related to the use of caustic herbs, and stigmatization in failing to comply with the practice are the principal health risks associated to labia minora elongation. At the same time, there is evidence that labial elongation may benefit the sexual health and well being of women. More research of a quantitative nature is necessary to determine its prevalence across the practicing cultures and to precise its implications on the sexual and reproductive health for the women who engage in this female genital modification.

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The female circumcision, anthropology and liberalism

Rev. colomb. antropol. vol.46 no.2 Bogotá July/Dec. 2010FREE

The female circumcision, anthropology and liberalism (Article in Spanish)

Londoño Sulkin, CD


A new comer to the anthropology of African peoples and to the study of female genital cutting, the author reacts to the speeches and writings of American and Sierra Leonean scholar Fuambai Ahmadu on these matters. Inspired by her work, the author argues that many of the perceptions and much of the rhetoric of anti FGM (anti Female Genital Mutilation) movements are parochial, imperialistic, and illiberal, and suggests that anthropologists and others take counsel from anthropology’s age-old methodological prescription to attend carefully and over an extended period of time to the discourses and other practices of the people we study and to be reflexively critical about our own premises and beliefs, prior to adopting any purportedly liberal cause that seeks to eradicate any alien social practice.

This article can be accessed in this LINK

Labial Elongation in the Shona

The Central Africa Journal of Medicine. July 1969 15 (7):165-166FREELME

Labial Elongation in the Shona

Williams J


It is a common medical observation that most Shona women have elongated labia minora. Upon external vaginal examination these usually pre~ent as two contiguous bundles of gathered, shrIvelled, loose skin tissue. By including a labial measurement with routine antenatal pro- cedures, the extent of this enlargement was estimated in a series of rural Shona patients…

This article can be accessed in this LINK

Vaginal practices as women’s agency in sub-Saharan Africa: a synthesis of meaning and motivation through meta-ethnography.

Soc Sci Med. 2012 May;74(9):1311-23. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.032. Epub 2012 Jan 28. LME

Vaginal practices as women’s agency in sub-Saharan Africa: a synthesis of meaning and motivation through meta-ethnography.

Martin Hilber A, Kenter E, Redmond S, Merten S, Bagnol B, Low N, Garside R.

University of Bern, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Finkenhubelweg 11, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland; Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Switzerland. amartinhilber@ispm.unibe.ch


This paper reports on a systematic review of qualitative research about vaginal practices in sub-Saharan Africa, which used meta-ethnographic methods to understand their origins, their meanings for the women who use them, and how they have evolved in time and place. We included published documents which were based on qualitative methods of data collection and analysis and contained information on vaginal practices. After screening, 16 texts were included which dated from 1951 to 2008. We found that practices evolve and adapt to present circumstances and that they remain an important source of power for women to negotiate challenges that they face. Recent evidence suggests that some practices may increase a woman’s susceptibility to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The success of new female-controlled prevention technologies, such as microbicides, might be determined by whether they can and will be used by women in the course of their daily life.

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The cultural context of the Sierra Leonean Mende woman as patient.

 J Transcult Nurs. 2010 Jul;21(3):228-36. doi: 10.1177/1043659609358781.

The cultural context of the Sierra Leonean Mende woman as patient.

Kallon I, Dundes L.

Department of Sociology, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster, MD 21157, USA.


This article provides a clinically pertinent overview of Sierra Leonean immigrants, a growing patient population that most health care workers know little about. The focus is on Sierra Leonean Mende women and the relevance of their cultural perspective to clinical care. A literature review and interview responses from seven Sierra Leoneans are the sources of data. Immigrants from Sierra Leone are coming from a country that since the late 1990s has been ranked at the bottom of the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Practitioner knowledge of cultural norms such as female genital mutilation and discomfort with opposite sex health practitioners can improve cross-cultural interactions in the health arena. Given that most clinicians are unfamiliar with this unique patient population, this article provides background information including special
attention to medically relevant aspects of the Sierra Leonean cultural milieu that will enhance the rapport between health care workers and these patients.

This article can be purchased in this LINK

Genitals and ethnicity: the politics of genital modifications

Reprod Health Matters. May 2010, 18(35):29-37.

Genitals and ethnicity: the politics of genital modifications

Johnsdotter S, Essen B


The discrepancy in societal attitudes toward female genital cosmetic surgery for European women and female genital cutting in primarily African girl children and women raises the following fundamental question. How can it be that extensive genitalmodifications, including reduction of labial and clitoral tissue, are considered acceptable and perfectly legal in many European countries, while those same societies have legislation making female genital cutting illegal, and the World Health Organization bans even the “pricking” of the female genitals? At present, tensions are obvious as regards the modification offemale genitalia, and current legislation and medical practice show inconsistencies in relation to women of different ethnic backgrounds. As regards the right to health, it is questionable both whether genital cosmetic surgery is always free of complications and whether female genital cutting always leads to them. Activists, national policymakers and other stakeholders, including cosmetic genital surgeons, need to be aware of these inconsistencies and find ways to resolve them and adopt non-discriminatory policies. This is not necessarily an issue of either permitting or banning all forms of genitalcutting, but about identifying a consistent and coherent stance in which key social values – including protection of children, bodily integrity, bodily autonomy, and equality before the law – are upheld.

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The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective (review)

Harvard Human Rights Journal. August 2001;23(3):832-836.
The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective (review)
Carpenter RC
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:R. Charli Carpenter – The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective (review) – Human Rights Quarterly 23:3 Human Rights Quarterly 23.3 (2001) 832-836 Book Review The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective, by Ellen Gruenbaum (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2001). The followers of mutilation are good people who love their children; any campaign that insinuates otherwise is doomed to provoke defensive reaction. –Gerry Mackie, (1996:1015) The quotation, which heads the seventh chapter of Gruenbaum’s book, summarizes the normative thrust of her analysis. It is precisely the inability of Westerners to reconcile our definition of “people who love their children” with the image of adults holding down small girls and cutting their genitals, which paralyzes Western-led reform efforts. Gruenbaum highlights and critiques this incongruity in her study of “real-life complexities” regarding what she carefully terms “female circumcision.” Her aim is to provide a depiction of the socioeconomic institutions perpetuating female circumcision, which she claims are all too often lost or obscured in the self-righteous rhetoric of the anti-FGM movement. She accomplishes this through a combination of historiography and in-depth case study; and by negotiating a middle-ground between her Western feminism and her anthropologist’s cultural…

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