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Capsule Review

Inbulation: Female Mutilation in Islamic Northeastern Africa

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Inbulation: Female Mutilation in Islamic Northeastern Africa

Inbulation: Female Mutilation in Islamic Northeastern Africa
By Esther K. Hicks
Transaction Publishers, 1993, 298 pp. $34.95 Purchase

Painstaking research and documentation support the conclusions of this unusual book. The author has made a comprehensive investigation into the practice of inbulation, the most extreme form of female circumcision, as it occurs in what she calls the closed cultural systems of northeastern Africa. A pre-Islamic practice dating at least to the time of the pharaohs, its persistence is attributed primarily to the male dominance sustained by Islam in both pastoral and sedentary populations. The study argues that although men play no role in the operation, the practice remains a means of male control over the sexual and reproductive capacities of women. Significantly, the author avoids value judgments about those who maintain the practice and asserts that it is unhelpful and even counterproductive to call for an end to inbulation without acknowledging how integral it is to the culture of many societies. This work presents an interesting challenge to feminist assumptions and to Western conceptions of human rights.

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