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Teaching about female genital mutilation/cutting in Africa: complex questions of culture, “development” and human rights

Evans, R. (2020) Teaching about female genital mutilation/cutting in Africa: complex questions of culture, “development” and human rights. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 44 (2). pp. 230-247. ISSN 1466-1845

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/03098265.2019.1661371


Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) has risen up the global advocacy agenda and is recognised as an important child-safeguarding issue. The topic crystallises key debates in my module, Culture and Development in Africa, and enables Geography undergraduates to explore complex intersections of childhood, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity in diverse African communities. In this paper, in light of in my efforts to teach for social transformation, I reflect on the inquiry-based learning approach I adopt and on its potential benefits. Conscious of postcolonial feminist critiques of processes of racialized “Othering”, I discuss dilemmas about how to frame FGM/C and support students’ critical engagement with the conflicting, sometimes confusing, discourses of cultural relativism and universal human rights. I seek to foster independent learning and research skills using a “real world” NGO assignment. Qualitative feedback suggests students develop more in-depth subject-knowledge, reflections on the ethics of “development”, changes in self-theories and gain important skilful practices that may enhance their employability. Linking my teaching to my work with a charity tackling FGM/C has enabled co-learners to regard this as both a cultural practice that affects “distant others”, and as a form of gender-based heteronormative violence and child abuse that has resonance in the local community.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Human Environments
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:83780
Uncontrolled Keywords:Inquiry-based learning; Teaching for social transformation; Ethics of development; Gender-based violence; Cultural diversity; Sub-Saharan Africa.
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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