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Rising Anthills

African and African American Writing on Female Genital Excision, 1960–2000

Elisabeth Bekers

Publication Year: 2010

Female genital excision, or the ritual of cutting the external genitals of girls and women, is undoubtedly one of the most heavily and widely debated cultural traditions of our time. By looking at how writers of African descent have presented the practice in their literary work, Elisabeth Bekers shows how the debate on female genital excision evolved over the last four decades of the twentieth century, in response to changing attitudes about ethnicity, nationalism, colonialism, feminism, and human rights.
    Rising Anthills (the title refers to a Dogon myth) analyzes works in English, French, and Arabic by African and African American writers, both women and men, from different parts of the African continent and the diaspora. Attending closely to the nuances of language and the complexities of the issue, Bekers explores lesser-known writers side by side with such recognizable names as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Flora Nwapa, Nawal El Saadawi, Ahmadou Kourouma, Calixthe Beyala, Alice Walker, and Gloria Naylor. Following their literary discussions of female genital excision, she discerns a gradual evolution—from the 1960s, when writers mindful of its communal significance carefully “wrote around” the physical operation, through the 1970s and 1980s, when they began to speak out against the practice and their societies’ gender politics, to the late 1990s, when they situated their denunciations of female genital excision in a much broader, international context of women’s oppression and the struggle for women’s rights.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-ix

Female genital excision is undoubtedly one of the most heavily and widely debated cultural traditions of our time. Although the ritual practice is most prevalent in Africa,1 the voices of Africans contributing to the international debate on female genital excision tend to be drowned out by the outraged reactions of...

Analyzed Works

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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: Writing Women’s Rites and Rights

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pp. 3-26

In the creation story of the Dogon of Mali, Amma, the male god of creation, tries to penetrate the female Earth he has just created. His attempt is thwarted by the Earth’s potent clitoris, which, in the shape of a termite hill, rises against Amma to prevent the rape. The almighty Creator, however, works his will and...

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Chapter 1: Denunciations of Colonization and Hesitant Feminist Criticism in Early Literary “Circumscriptions” of Female Genital Excision (1963–1974)

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pp. 27-75

Female genital excision first appears in African creative writing in the mid- 1960s, when young African authors were generating a breakthrough for African literatures in European languages.1 Among those widely recognized for their trailblazing roles are the Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the Nigerian Flora...

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Chapter 2: Growing Feminist Disenchantment in Literary Explorations of Female Genital Excision around the UN Decade for Women

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pp. 76-150

Within a couple of years of the publication of the first African literary texts dealing with female genital excision, the practice and its traditional significance come to be addressed more candidly by a second generation of...

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Chapter 3: The Globalization of the Literary Debate on Female Genital Excision at the Close of the Twentieth Century (1982–1998)

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pp. 151-195

The end of the United Nations Women’s Decade in 1985 did not signal the demise of the debate on female genital excision any more than it diminished the literary interest in the practice. Stimulated by the globalization of the debate in the final decades of the twentieth century, a whole new range of authors...

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Conclusion

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pp. 196-202

Since 1963, when Rebeka Njau first dealt with female genital excision in her play The Scar, the practice has been consistently explored in creative writing from the African continent, and since the 1980s in African diaspora writing as well. In Rising Anthills I have shown how a score of literary authors, men and women from various parts of the African continent and its diaspora, writing in English...

Notes

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pp. 203-230

References

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pp. 231-248

Index

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pp. 249-262


E-ISBN-13: 9780299234935
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299234942

Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2010