The use of female circumcision is typically seen in the West as a traditional rite of passage that is doomed to disappear with modernization and cultural development. Some studies have shown that the rite has been seen by local societies as a form of resistance against colonial authority. This project studies the recent adoption of female circumcision and the integration of this ritual into the female initiation ceremonies of a society in Chad. The researcher will provide an interpretive account of the recent adoption of the rite by situating the event within its historical context; study how female circumcision relates to shifts in the meaning of rites of passage and of womanhood for the local culture as well as the local society's relationship to higher political authority; and document local varieties of support and resistance for the practice. The research design includes cases studies in three villages with unique histories of exposure to female circumcision. The PI will use participant observation, semi-structured interviews and surveys as well as in-depth interviews with initiated women and other key players in the initiation ceremonies. This study will advance our understanding of female circumcision in non-Islamic, sub-Saharan populations, and will advance theoretical discussions about the role of female circumcision in the larger social and cultural setting. It will also add to our knowledge about this important region of the world

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Stuart Plattner
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United States
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