During the United Nations decade for women (1975–1985), the practice of “female circumcision” was identified as female genital mutilation (FGM). Because the word “mutilation” was “thought to preempt moral judgment about such operations,” FGM was later replaced by female genital cutting. As of the 1970s, women's rites or rituals began to clash with human rights or “(w)human rights.” This book explores the liminal position of women between rites and rights in experiential texts by women writers from the 1960s to 2006, as well as texts from 1920s colonial Africa, sixteenth-century European medical discourse, and classical antiquity. It examines how excision contributes to the cultural construction of gender, particularly women's attempt at translating 'international feminism' across spaces, cultures, and belief systems. The book consists of three parts. Part I addresses African excised women's flight from cultural surveillance, Part II looks at their flight from religious and patriarchal surveillance, and Part III considers their concurrent physical flight through self-imposed exile or asylum in the West as well as their desire for empowerment on their return “home.”
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