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ANTHROPOLOGY-MATTERS  January 2011

ANTHROPOLOGY-MATTERS January 2011

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Subject:

Book announcement

From:

Vitalis Pemunta Ngambouk <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Vitalis Pemunta Ngambouk <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 7 Jan 2011 14:02:00 +0100

Content-Type:

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text/plain (104 lines)

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*Health and Cultural Values: Female Circumcision within the Context of
HIV/AIDS in Cameroon*
Author: Ngambouk Vitalis Pemunta
Date Of Publication: Jan 2011
Isbn13: 978-1-4438-2642-6
Isbn: 1-4438-2642-1
This book provides a nuanced analysis of the transformations that the ritual
cutting of Female Circumcision (FC) recently underwent within the changing
medical and institutional context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic among Ejagham
tribes in Southwest Cameroon.

Based on local level ethnography, it captures the multivocale perspectives
and agency of participants thereby putting to question the uncritical
feminist stance that “Third World Women” lack agency and are chattel. As the
highest rite of patriarchy, the quintessential icon of gendered personhood
and femininity, FC remains salient even when it is no longer the criterion
for membership into the Moninkim secret society especially within the new
medical and institutional context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic because it is
intertwined with the whole cultural political economy of the Ejaghams. The
commercialization of this feminine institution charged with feminine
personhood through its spectacular performances (enacting matrimonial
relations) within and beyond the Ejagham locale is evidence of its
continuous centrality in the life world of participants. By focusing on
health alone, anti-HIV/AIDS and anti-FC interventions by both the state and
civil society actors miss the point. FC is increasingly becoming a human,
social, gender rights and development issue calling for a multi-pronged
development approach. The threat of the HIV/AIDS pandemic led to ferocious
intergenerational debates over moral values about female inordinate
sexuality and to the double appropriation of the concept of human security.
Conservatives maintain that FC tempers with women’s sexuality and is
therefore a useful mechanism to keep women in matrimonial service, a moral
check on inordinate sexuality and a ‘‘native’’ antidote against the scourge
of the pandemic. Anti-FC advocates point to the bloodletting entailed by the
ritual procedures as fuelling the spread of the pandemic through the spread
of diseases with HIV/AIDS inclusive among participants. A third group of
cultural insiders are rather opting but for the cautious appropriation of
modernity while simultaneously maintaining tradition: medicalisation of the
ritual procedures. By reducing the complexity and nuances of the ritual
cutting to health alone, anti-FC activism has instead produced a backlash
marked by simultaneous contestation and practice. Paradoxically, the anti-FC
campaigns have resulted in the privatization of FC on increasingly younger
girls. However, the recent waiving of the ritual cutting as a precondition
for membership into the Moninkim cult-partly because of the ageing of the
initial initiates, the health risk of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and anti-FC
advocacy campaigns by local NGOs shows that change is underway.
Simultaneously, inter-tribal marriages with members of non-circumcising
tribes and romantic love relationships beyond the purview of the traditional
patriarchal orbit have led younger lovers increasingly seeking mutually
satisfying love relationships for which FC, a ‘virtuous cut’, becomes an
obstacle.

While internal socio-cultural change is imminent and needs to consolidated,
Western positionality on ritual FC has instead stonewalled eradication
initiatives usefully calling for the need to “wear native spectacles”:
engage participants in meaningful dialogue and convert them into their own
change agents, tailor health education and social change initiatives with
and not against the target population. Local processes are rooted in wider
fields of power and are affected by forces at various scales calling for the
need to look at the entanglement between local and global, economic, social,
political and historical processes in the study of, and in interventions to
change health and other cultural issues.


Ngambouk V. Pemunta completed his Ph.D in Sociology and Anthropology from
the Central European University Budapest, Hungary in 2009. He has been an
academic and a consultant for various NGOs in both Cameroon and Hungary
thereby ‘cross-pollinating’ between the spheres of anthropology and
development, theory and practice. His research interests revolve around
knowledge, gender, power, globalisation, health and the anthropology of
Africa.



-- 







Don't ever trespass on the generosity of your host. Just as those in power
should not wait until they are thrown out.

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