Infibulation : Female Mutilation in Islamic Northeastern Africa book cover
1st Edition

Female Mutilation in Islamic Northeastern Africa

ISBN 9781560008415
Published January 31, 1996 by Routledge
331 Pages

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Book Description

Infibulation is the most extreme form of female circumcision. It plays an important role in the Islamic societies of northeastern Africa. Until now, the social significance and function of this practice has been poorly understood. This has been no less true of Western commentators who have condemned the practice than of relevant governments that have attempted to curb it. In Infibulation, Esther K. Hicks analyzes female circumcision as a cultural trait embedded in a historically traditional milieu and shows why it cannot be treated in isolation as a single issue destined for elimination. In its brief history it has been recognized as a pioneering piece of research with enormous consequences.

As Hicks demonstrates, much of the popular resistance to official efforts to eradicate infibulation has actually come from women. Circumcision constitutes a rite of passage for female children. It initiates them into womanhood and makes them eligible for marriage. Often, this is the only positive status position available to women in traditional Islamic societies. Hicks points out that although female circumcision predates the introduction of Islam into the region, the religious culture has successfully codified infibulation into the structural nexus of marriage, family, and social honor at all socioeconomic levels.

Table of Contents

Figures, Maps, Plots, and Tables

Preface xi


1. Infibulation: Description, Function, and Diffusion
Function: Indigenous and Academic Perspectives

2. The Socioeconomic Distribution of Infibulation
Pastoralism in Northeastern Africa and the Sudan
Pastoral-Rural-Urban Interaction and Infibulation

3. Infibulation in the Social Nexus
Closed Cultural Systems
Islam: A Closed Cultural System
Social Space in Islamic Societies
Gender Identification and Differentiation in Open
and Closed Cultural Systems
The Status Position of Women in Infibulation-Practicing
Marriage Customs and Laws: An Overview
Male Absenteeism, Sexual Abstinence, Sleeping
Arrangements, and Infibulation
Fertility Levels and Patterns, Mortality and Birthrates,
Sex Ratio Distribution, and Infibulation

4. Methodological Approach and Research Strategy
The Problem of Sources
Sample Selection and Statistical Analysis
Statistical Analysis
The HOMALS-technique

5. Infibulation and the Composite Variables
The Variables Considered
Marriage, Status, and the Practice of Infibulation
Early Marriage and Infibulation
The Composite Variables

6. The Future of Infibulation

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