The cultural debate over female circumcision: the Sudanese are arguing this one out for themselves

Med Anthropol Q. 1996 Dec;10(4):455-75. doi: 10.1525/maq.1996.10.4.02a00030.


This article critiques medical ecological analysis of female circumcision as a "maladaptive cultural pattern" and argues that this highly controversial procedure must be analyzed within the larger contexts of women's lives in underdeveloped countries. International efforts to eradicate female circumcision, while often couched in seemingly progressive feminist rhetoric, inadvertently serve to mask the negative health effects of the economic exploitation of poor countries such as Sudan. Reproductive histories and ethnographic data are used to argue that though female circumcision is not maladaptive, cultural discourse about it is resulting in changes in the meaning, techniques, and frequency of this practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Circumcision, Female / adverse effects
  • Circumcision, Female / ethnology*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Ethnopsychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Politics
  • Rural Health
  • Sudan
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women's Health*
  • Women's Rights*