Since the late 19th century, genital modifications (female and male) have been an important research subject in anthropology. According to a comparative and constructivist perspective, they were first interpreted as rites of passage, then as rites of institutions. In a complex dialogue with feminist movements, 20th-century scholars recognised that the cultural meanings of these modifications are multiple and changing in time and space. Conversely, according to WHO, since the 1950s, Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) has been considered a form of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Interpreted as VAWG, FGM/C has progressively been isolated from its complementary male rite, selected for special condemnation, and banned. An order of discourse has been built by WHO and other international organisations. This article provides a genealogic deconstruction of the order of discourse lexicon, highlighting dislocations between anthropology and the human rights agenda. Today, genital modifications encompass FGM/C, male circumcision, clitoral reconstruction after FGM/C, gender reassignment surgery, and intersex and ‘cosmetic’ genital surgery. I propose to call these procedures Gendered Genital Modification (GGMo). GGMo implicates public health, well-being, potential harm, sexuality, moral and social norms, gender empowerment, gender violence, and prohibitive and permissive policies and laws. The selective production of knowledge on FGM/C has reinforced the social and political polarisation between practices labelled as barbaric and others considered modern, accessible, and empowering. I suggest an anthropological interpretation for the socio-cultural meanings of health, sexuality, purity and beauty. I propose future interdisciplinary studies of how consent, bodily integrity and personal autonomy bear on concepts of agency and subjectivity in the sex/gender system.
Fusaschi, M. (2022). Gendered Genital Modifications in Critical Anthropology: From Discourses on FGM/C to New Technologies in the Sex/Gender System. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF IMPOTENCE RESEARCH [10.1038/s41443-022-00542-y].