Paradoxes of awareness raising in development: gender and sexual morality in anti-FGC campaigning in Egypt

A. van Raemdonck

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper discusses cultural translations of international campaigns against Female Genital Cutting (FGC) through a critical ethnographic study. It analyses development initiatives as cultural practices and signifying processes. The vernacularisation of these campaigns leads to certain paradoxes: while the abandonment of FGC is encouraged, nationalist-modernist processes of Othering and dominant gender and sexual moralities are also reinforced. These paradoxes reveal how certain aspects of transnational development discourse are easily transmitted while others are subverted. Individual rights discourse fades to the background in favour of putting emphasis on common social concerns and shared gender-conservative norms. FGC as an external bodily practice and a means to control sexual behaviour is rejected in favour of internal moral self-disciplining. Secondly, the transnational fight against FGC is translated into a fight for marriage. The practice is condemned for causing sexual dissatisfaction and friction within the marital bond. Local development workers aim to connect to women’s life worlds through reference to dominant social anxieties - family unity, social cohesion and gender-conservative sexuality norms but, importantly, fail to address women’s lived experience and knowledge. When international scripts and hegemonic social norms are foregrounded, a body affirmative discussion of female lived sexuality and actual sexual coping strategies is precluded.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1177-1191
Number of pages15
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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