Female Genital Mutilation: Myth, Memoir, Media, Money – and Sex — Oxford IGS Workshop Programme

You are welcome to join us for another interdisciplinary workshop on FGM sponsored by the International Gender Studies Centre, Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford and UnCUT/VOICES Press.

We meet  on 9 MARCH 2018, 9:00 a.m.to 5:30 p.m. in the Mary O’Brien Room.

If you wish to attend and/or receive the full electronic programme including concept notes, please email Dr Tobe Levin von Gleichen   tlevin@fas.harvard.edu

History and Aims of FGM Workshops at LMH, International Gender Studies Centre

Since 2015, the International Gender Studies Centre at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, has welcomed experts on female genital mutilation (FGM) to network and exchange ideas. From Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Switzerland, the UK, the USA and, via skype, from Kenya, Sweden and Spain, with a significant percentage from the African Diaspora (especially Somalia), activists and academics participated in three workshops promoting cooperation among advocates for abolition. Audiences comprised faculty, students, journalists, health professionals, government and NGO representatives as well as lay people interested in the topic. The first gathering on 7 March 2015, also the IGS contribution to the Oxford International Women’s Festival, “Contestations around FGM: Activism and the Academy” featured six sessions that heard testimony and oral history; considered FGM and the law; and looked at cutting as a medical issue. We asked how the ‘health approach’ has furthered abandonment or, on the contrary, encouraged medicalisation.

March 10 workshop 2

On 10 March 2017 we gathered for the first time in the Mary O’Brien room in hopes of learning from each other how best to end FGM.

Moreover, we understood excision as a wound in need of curative attention, including clitoris restoration, a topic addressed, for instance, by Dr Brenda Kelly of the Oxford Rose Clinic, Comfort Momoh MBE, and Dr Pierre Foldes, the surgeon who developed the procedure. Further, via media and the arts, the workshop explored genital assault, exposing tensions and celebrating synergies between activism and research. Keynote speakers Maggie O’Kane, director of the Guardian Global Campaign against FGM, and Leyla Hussein, among the UK’s most prominent spokeswomen, showed clips and passionately defined the role each of us has in ending FGM. [See https://theoxfordfeministepress.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/final_oxfep_workshop_report_1_fgm-workshop_11-1-16.pdf]

Two more workshops followed in 2017. On 10 March, “Four Specific Challenges to Ending FGM: Medicalisation, Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery, Asylum, and (Lack of) Education (about FGM)” narrowed the focus to concentrate on these four dimensions, just as attention at the third gathering on 17 November illuminated “’Elephants in the Room’. Hurdles – and Hope – for Ending FGM.” The ‘elephants’ comprised discourse – such as feminism — which may presage successful abolition but tends to remain sub-rosa. An ‘elephant in the room’, Wikipedia notes, ‘is an English-language metaphorical idiom for an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss, or a condition of groupthink no one wants to challenge’. As Jaha Dukureh told the Guardian, ‘In Washington, they don’t want to talk about vaginas’, an observation also advanced by Leyla Hussein who pointed out in the Lancet, ‘In the UK, the three topics that people are afraid to talk about are race, gender, and sex, and FGM involves all three’.Undoing cover

Our workshop identified the pachyderms as sexuality, gender identity, inadequate resources (too little money flowing from government to grassroots NGOs and states’ reluctance to invest in girls and women), and the untapped goldmine of influence in creativity and the arts – ‘advertising, social media, and pageantry’ as persuasive conduits apt to change minds and behaviour. We heard two papers: Mohamed Abdinasir, transmitting by Skype, whose MSc University of Leicester, ‘Review of Attitudes, Beliefs, Perceptions of Somali Men towards FGM’, surveyed available studies, and a keynote by Hilary Burrage titled ‘Follow the Money: The Economics of FGM’. Yet, enabling enriching dialogue, workshop chairs and respondents limited prepared remarks to approximately ten minutes.

Finally, knowledge gained at workshops in 2017 and 2018 will be included in a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary publication – FGM: Hard Questions, Few Answers (working title) — a volume in preparation. The CALL FOR PAPERS remains open and will soon appear in detail at this site.


Graziella Piga and Dr Maria Jaschok


Summary Programme

FGM: Myth, Memoir, Media, Money – and Sex.

Welcome. 9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Dr Maria Jaschok, IGS Director + Dr Tobe Levin von Gleichen, UnCUT/VOICES

Session 1. 9:15 – 10:45. Myth and/or History

Networking coffee break 10:45-11:00

Session 2. 11:00 – 12:30. Memoir and Testimony: Use and abuse

Networking LUNCH 12:301:15 [A £15 contribution for lunch & coffee breaks would be appreciated.]

Session 3. 1:15 – 2:30. Media: The Benefits of Disclosure vs Dangers of Encouraging Islamophobia and Racism. Youth and Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. to End FGM

Session 4. 2:30 – 3:45. Money: Inadequate funding. Vested Interests. MDGs. GDP.

Networking coffee break 3:45 – 4:15

Session 5. 4:15 – 5:30. Sex and sexuality: Crashing the omerta and conclusion



One response to “Female Genital Mutilation: Myth, Memoir, Media, Money – and Sex — Oxford IGS Workshop Programme

  1. Pingback: Female Genital Mutilation: Money – Inadequate Funding, Vested Interests, MDG and GDP | Hilary Burrage

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