Category Archives: Sociology

Hilary Burrage on ‘Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation’ – a book which should never have been written

This is a guest post from Hilary Burrage, author of Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: a UK perspective


Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: a UK perspective is a book which, ideally, should never have been written.

Eradicating_Burrage PBK_TemplateLike almost everyone else– but certainly, I now know, not absolutely everyone – I entered the Millennium in the belief that FGM in Britain was a thing of the past, a footnote to a truly awful ‘practice’ which sadly had occurred occasionally in London until it was outlawed in the UK by the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. Yes, I had written a letter or two to my MP back in the 1980s, and had asked questions where I could; the legislation, I had been assured, meant however that I need concern myself no further.

But with the Millennium came the internet; and with that came the brave decision in 2003 by members of the Inter-African Committee (IAC) – on 6 February, now the annual International Day for Zero Tolerance of FGM – to alert the world to a hard truth: the grim reality that FGM had not been stopped forever in Africa or anywhere else. Rather, the incidence of this harmful traditional practice was probably increasing, with some 130-140 million girls and women world-wide affected.

And slowly, evidential shred by evidential shred, it became apparent that, as diasporas from various parts of the world made their homes in Britain, so was FGM being practised more in the UK.

Even that however was not all. I learnt via the world-wide web too that so-called ‘female circumcision’ is not as it seems. I believe no unnecessary hurt to children should ever be inflicted, but FGM can be an act well beyond what is normally understood as ‘circumcision’. I discovered it can comprise the fully intentional removal of almost every part of the external female genitalia, usually without anaesthetic or asepsis, and often on small children.

By 2006 my mind was made up. I am a (grand)parent and a human being. I decided that my training as a Sociologist and my professional experience in areas like social care and health policy would henceforth be focussed on support for long-time lone voices opposing FGM, the then-few self-identified survivors, and people such as (the late) campaigner Efua Dorkenoo, the Paris attorney Linda Weil-Curiel, the American literary academic Tobe Levin and other stalwarts who have been resolute against FGM for many years.

The invitation to write for Ashgate which arrived a few years later from Jonathan Norman was therefore an opportunity which, after many months of research and reflection, I knew I should not pass by.

Nowhere could I find comprehensive, cohesive, up to date and easily available reportage and commentary all together on aspects of FGM in the UK and the wider Western world. Certainly there were admirable books, documents and, later on, websites concerning specific aspects of this harmful traditional practice, but little in the way of published sources for everything in one place about FGM in general, and / or specifically about FGM in Britain and first world nations. I would have to try to write a textbook, handbook, primer or whatever myself.

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation is that book – a project which has taken more than four years to complete.

I am under no illusion that my efforts comprise more than one small start, but I hope such an approach, alongside other on-going work, will help to build a conjoined, inclusive inter-disciplinary field – not just a disparately funded multi-agency approach (essential though agencies are) – from which an articulated, shared paradigm for the eradication of FGM and other child abuse in the developed world will more clearly emerge.

I want to know that survivors will be enabled to play a part in eradicating FGM without also have so much of the burden placed on their shoulders: the safety of children is a responsibility of us all, not only of those whose trust has been breached. I want to see an approach where professions do not engage in turf wars arising from a failure at the highest level to ensure policy co-ordination and substantive support.

And most of all I want to see a world in which my book can be dispatched to the archives, a world in which children are safe and FGM no longer occurs.

The nations of Europe, North America and Australia have capacity and capability if they so choose to consign FGM to history without delay; and it must be done. If the prime role of the leaders of democratic states is not to protect the most vulnerable, those states have surely lost their way.

Eradication of FGM in the Western world would make a massive impact across the globe and, most importantly of all, it would mean that many thousands of little girls now at risk would be spared unspeakable pain, reaching adulthood instead as healthy, autonomous women.

I have no easy answers; I aim only to spark serious, open debate about how the academy can join forces in a fitting way with those on the frontline of positive, value-oriented action. To that end I’ve devised a website for the topics in my book, where readers can elaborate (and doubtless correct) information, and discuss the issues further.

The point of my book is not the rigorous, even vigorous, exchange of views, essential of course though rigour remains. The point is whatever contribution to a fundamental common good may flow from these and other’s exchanges.

Female genital mutilation is an egregious human rights abuse visiting shame on us all. It is patriarchy incarnate, a brutal abomination. It must stop.


About the Author: Hilary Burrage is a freelance sociologist and community activist. She has been a senior lecturer in health and social care and a university research associate in community health as well as a non-executive director of Merseyside NHS ambulance trust and a trustee of the Liverpool school of tropical medicine.

‘Not since Efua Dorkenoo’s Cutting the Rose (1994) has a monograph on female genital mutilation outshone Hilary Burrage’s. Outraged at ineffective child protection, Burrage provides a comprehensive, scholarly yet accessible guide – among the best ever to deal with FGM – to professionals and all people of conscience.’
Tobe Levin von Gleichen, Harvard University, USA and University of Oxford, UK



Guest Post from Roger Cotterrell

Posted by Luana Life, Marketing Coordinator

Roger CotterrellRoger Cotterrell, Professor of Legal Theory at Queen Mary, University of London, UK, provides today’s guest blog. He is the author of Law, Culture and Society: Legal Ideas in the Mirror of Social Theory — an Editor’s Choice title in our Law list. The following post includes background information about the book and his research motivations, thoughts, and experiences that helped shape the volume’s success and contribution to the field.


Law culture and societyLaw, Culture and Society originated in a series of essays written over an eight year period. But it was intended as far more than just a collection of linked papers. I saw all of the studies that contributed to it as part of a single, tightly integrated project, even if one with several branches. I wanted to show through this book what I had come to see as a necessary new perspective on the study of law in society. Since I had long been interested in legal theory and committed to studying law from a sociological perspective, the book was a kind of first summation of what I had gradually worked out as the most productive way to apply this sociological outlook in a theoretically consistent way in interpreting legal ideas. So, it was subtitled ‘legal ideas in the mirror of social theory’. As in much of my work, a guiding motivation was to show the relevance of sociological insights for juristic, doctrinal studies of law – the kinds of studies with which lawyers and law students are most familiar.

Looking back now, a decade after the book’s original publication, I can see two factors as especially important in determining the form that Law, Culture and Society took. The first was that in the years leading up to its publication I had become increasingly interested in comparative legal studies – an area of legal scholarship that throughout its development has been more open than most to making alliances with the social sciences. The strong links I had developed with comparative lawyers encouraged me to consider more carefully how sociological perspectives could aid them, and to ask how the whole enterprise of comparative law could acquire more solid theoretical foundations by drawing on ideas from social theory. So, the book was written partly to address students of comparative law.

It seemed obvious that comparative legal studies would become more important in a globalising world. Pressures to harmonise law across national boundaries were becoming more intense. But at the same time ‘local’ cultures – often reflecting particular traditions, values and allegiances – clearly sought to resist some of these harmonising pressures and called on law to express their distinctiveness. There seemed to be a dual movement focused on law: it must seek the efficiency of similarity produced through harmonisation but it must also appreciate cultural difference. As a consequence, ‘culture’ would have to become a very important focus of attention for legal scholars.

Sociology and anthropology had already developed many ideas about the nature of culture that deserved attention. However, when I came to examine carefully the ideas about ‘legal culture’ that were current in socio-legal studies I felt they lacked rigour. So an important part of my project, reflected in Law, Culture and Society, was to find a way of thinking about culture that could be conceptually defensible, consistent and systematic, and practically relevant for legal analysis as well as for social scientific inquiries about law.

A second main factor also shaped the book’s form. I had come to feel that the old agenda of socio-legal studies – to study the interaction between ‘law’ and ‘society’ – was becoming exhausted. Socio-legal scholars had tended to treat ‘society’ as referring to national societies and ‘law’ as the law of nation states. But social research showed that social and economic relationships were increasingly transnational and international, and law in practice was less and less confined to national law. Law, Culture and Society introduces and develops the idea of communal networks that can cross nation state boundaries, and it suggests that different kinds of communal relationship typically pose different legal problems and present different regulatory needs. Equally, the diversity of communal networks within national societies is a matter of great juristic relevance. So, the book tries to displace the old fixation with national societies as law’s sole concern in favour of a much more open view of communal networks – national, intra-national and transnational.

I had not been thinking of culture when I first wrote about communal networks. However, I came to think that culture could be best understood in terms of them. It could be seen as the bonds that allow these various networks to exist. So, the book’s approach was intended to suggest new agendas for social study of law. I used it to reconsider the possibilities for ‘transplanting’ law from one cultural environment to another, as well as the nature of authority in comparative law, and the multifaceted character of culture as a concern for law. More broadly, I claimed that the law-and-community approach could help to clarify one of the most basic foci of legal analysis – the idea of responsibility.

Since the book appeared I have further developed its approach, which has also been used by other scholars working in diverse fields. Today we can at least see clearly that social studies of law are becoming ever more important and that their character is changing as law becomes more transnational and international, and as networks of socio-economic relations become ever more varied, diverse and intricate within and across national boundaries. Socio-legal researchers and socially-aware lawyers surely have plenty of work to do and I hope that Law, Culture and Society can still prove helpful.

Roger Cotterrell

June 22nd 2015


Examination Copies of this title are available on a 60 day trial basis for lecturers considering course adoption. To request a copy of a book, fill out the online inspection/examination form.

Violence Against Women – an ongoing problem

Posted by Claire Jarvis, Senior Commissioning Editor

On the 25th of June of this year the BBC reported that there had been a record number of prosecutions for violence against women and girls. The CPS report showed that there had been 107,000 prosecutions for rape, domestic violence and ‘honour’ crimes in the year to April 2015. This figure is an increase of 18% on the previous year.

These figures demonstrate the on-going issue on violence again women in all its forms. Here at Ashgate we are proud to have published a number of recent books on the subject written by some of the leading scholars, policy-makers and activists working in this area, all with the aim of eradicating this problem once and for all.

Books Published:

Moving in the shadowsMoving in the Shadows: Violence in the Lives of Minority Women and Children (2013) Edited by Yasmin Rehman, freelance consultant, Liz Kelly, London Metropolitan University, and Hannana Siddiqui, Southall Black Sisters.

Honour based violenceHonour-Based Violence: Experiences and Counter-Strategies in Iraqi Kurdistan and the UK Kurdish Diaspora (2015) Authored by Nazand Begikhani, University of Bristol, Aisha K. Gill, University of Roehampton, and Gill Hague, University of Bristol.

Young peoples understanding of mens violence against womenYoung People’s Understandings of Men’s Violence Against Women (2015) Authored by Nancy Lombard, Glasgow Caledonian University.


Forced marriage and honour killings in BritainForced Marriage and ‘Honour’ Killings in Britain: Private Lives, Community Crimes and Public Policy Perspectives (August 2015) Authored by Christina Julios, Birkbeck, University of London and The Open University.

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective (Forthcoming November 2015) Authored by Hilary Burrage.

Our Children and Other Animals – Unlearning Our Concept of Animals

Posted by Michael Drapper, Marketing Executive

This article originally appeared on Ruby Roth’s We Don’t Eat Animals blog. Ruby’s three illustrated children’s books, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, Vegan is Love and V is for Vegan, are discussed in Matthew Cole and Kate Stewart’s Our Children and Other Animals. You can read Ruby’s full article here.


I am boggled and honored to have my children’s books academically analyzed by two university lecturers, Matthew Cole and Kate Stewart.  Their book, Our Children and Other Animals: The Cultural Construction of Human-Animal Relations in Childhood, includes quite a discussion of my work—the imagery and representation of animals, my illustration techniques, compositions—how they all help young readers conceptualize their relation to animals. I’ve taken many art history courses and have always been leery of my teachers’ analyses of artworks. As an artist, myself, and having drawers full of unfinished work I’d never want anyone to see, I imagine that maybe even Degas would have scoffed at the heavy meaning assigned to any one of his works—maybe a painting he would’ve wanted to throw in the garbage. Having my work in the hot seat, though, I have to say, Cole and Stewart shocked me with their accuracy. I was stunned at the clarity with which they perceived not only my intentional illustrative strategies, but subconscious decisions, too.

They captured emotions I felt while painting these books, unspoken messages I wanted to relay to my potential young readers, and they beautifully articulated many of the underlying, tacit motives for designing the book as I did—from the animals’ eyes to the composition of racing animals running to an implied, but invisible end.


If you love sociology and the study of veganism, too, this academic book is a fascinating look at how we come to relate to animals and what we need to address in order to change the status quo. It’ll exercise your mind and help you discuss veganism even more intelligently with others, too. Especially kids.


Our children and other animalsOur Children and Other Animals focusses on the socialization of the human use of other animals as resources in contemporary Western society. The book explores the cultural reproduction of human-nonhuman animal relations in childhood with close attention to the dominant practices through which children encounter animals and mainstream representations of animals in children’s culture – whether in terms of the selective exposure of children to animals as ‘pets’ or as food in the home or in school, or the representation of animals in mass media and social media. As such Our Children and Other Animals reveals the interconnectedness of studies of childhood, culture and human-animal relations.

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Choice Outstanding Academic Title awards for 2014

Posted by Emily Ferro, Marketing Coordinator

Ashgate is thrilled to announce that Choice has honored three Ashgate books by naming them Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014. The recognized titles are Decolonizing Social Work; Ageing, Ritual and Social Change: Comparing the secular and religious in Eastern and Western Europe; and The Ashgate Research Companion to the Thirty Years’ War. Books recognized by Choice display ‘excellence in presentation and scholarship’ and provide content of significance in their field of study. Out of the thousands of titles reviewed by Choice in 2014, only 10% were celebrated as Outstanding Academic Titles.

Decolonizing social workDecolonizing Social Work by Mel Gray, John Coates, Michael Yellow Bird, and Tiani Hetherington features articles written by Indigenous and non-Indigenous social work scholars examining local cultures, beliefs, values, and practices as central to decolonization. Choice notes that the volume is “a sturdy reminder of the vast social justice work still to do in the world.” Through careful amalgamation of the work of the essayists, Gray, Coates, Yellow Bird, and Hetherington interrogate trends, issues, and debates in Indigenous social work theory, practice methods, and education models. Choice compliments the book’s readability and its glossary, and highly recommends it to all academics, libraries, and practitioners.

Ageing ritual and social changeAgeing, Ritual and Social Change by Peter Coleman, Daniela Koleva, and Joanna Bornat explores European changes in religious and secular beliefs and practices related to life passages. “The editors and contributors deserve appreciation for undertaking this challenging comparative project,” writes Choice, calling the collection “A significant multidisciplinary contribution to the literature on aging, religion/ritual, comparative oral history, and social change.” Drawing on fascinating oral histories of older people’s memories in both Eastern and Western Europe, this book presents illuminating views on peoples’ quests for existential meaning in later life. Choice highly recommends Ageing, Ritual and Social Change for upper-division undergraduates and up.

Ashgate research companion to the thirty years warThe final book named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2014 is The Ashgate Research Companion to the Thirty Years’ War by Olaf Asbach and Peter Schröder. A comprehensive and authoritative overview of research on one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, Choice notes that this book “will serve for some time as an essential starting point for research on the origins, conduct, and legacies of the wars and the peace.” By combining the work of key international scholars, this research companion explores the complexities of the conflict using an innovative comparative approach. Choice deems this book “Essential,” recommending it to all upper-division undergraduates and up.

Congratulations to all of the honorees.

For a listing of all of our recent prizewinners, visit  

New series: Sexualities in Society, edited by Helen Hester – call for proposals

Posted by Claire Jarvis, Senior Commissioning Editor

Ashgate Publishing is delighted to announce the launch of a new series: Sexualities in Society. Edited by Helen Hester (Lecturer in Promotional Cultures at Middlesex University, UK and author of Beyond Explicit: Pornography and the Displacement of Sex (SUNY Press, 2014) and co-editor of Fat Sex (Ashgate, 2015), it will offer a dedicated and much-needed space for the very best in interdisciplinary research on sex, sexualities, and twenty-first century society.

Its contemporary focus, methodological inclusivity, and international scope will provide a distinctive vantage point in terms of surveying the social organization of sexuality. It critically addresses numerous aspects of sex and sexuality, from media representations, to embodied sexual practices, to the sometimes controversial issues surrounding consent, sexual fantasy, and identity politics. It represents a critically rigorous, theoretically informed, and genuinely interdisciplinary attempt to interrogate a complex nexus of ideas regarding the ways in which sexualities inform, and are informed by, the broader sociopolitical contexts in which they emerge.

For further information about the series, including details of how to submit a proposal, please email Senior Commissioning Editor for Sociology Claire Jarvis (