Tag Archives: Gender studies

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



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.

Moshe Morad talks about Music and Gay Identity in Special Period Cuba

Posted by Laura Macy, Senior Commissioning Editor

Fiesta de diez pesosMoshe Morad first visited Cuba in 1994. There he discovered a rich and thriving underground gay music scene. Multiple research trips over the next 12 years resulted in Fiesta de diez pesos: Music and Gay Identity in Special Period Cuba, published in the SOAS Musicology series in December 2014.

In an announcement about the book on the SOAS website, Series Editor Professor Keith Howard said: ‘We’re delighted to announce Moshe’s fantastic work as the 53rd title in our Series. It’s a very strong piece and its inclusion demonstrates how the Series is going from strength to strength, showcasing cutting-edge research, including titles from many of the School’s music academics and alumni.’

Watch Dr Morad discuss his book on the Israeli news channel i24 News

About the Author: Moshe Morad is an ethnomusicologist, journalist and radio broadcaster, who has also presented ‘on location’ world music programmes on BBC Radio. His vast experience in the music industry includes managing the ‘Hemisphere’ world music label at EMI. He completed his PhD at SOAS, London, in 2013, following longitudinal fieldwork in Cuba.

Gender in a Global/Local World

Posted by Michael Drapper, Marketing Executive

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s, a turbulent period marked by rapid industrialization, huge population growth, and the rise of new radical political ideologies. At its inception International Women’s Day and its activists campaigned for women’s right to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and to end discrimination. Over time these inequalities, to a great or lesser extent, have lessened with women’s rights improving almost universally.

But as the world gets smaller, new challenges to gender equality have come to the fore. The Gender in a Global/Local World series critically explores the uneven and often contradictory ways in which global processes and local identities come together. Much has been and is being written about globalization and responses to it but rarely from a critical, historical, gendered perspective. Yet, these processes are profoundly gendered albeit in different ways in particular contexts. The changes in social, cultural, economic and political institutions and practices alter the conditions under which women and men make and remake their lives. New spaces have been created – economic, political, social – and previously silent voices are being heard.  North-South dichotomies are being undermined as increasing numbers of people and communities are exposed to international processes through migration, travel, and communication, even as marginalization and poverty intensify for many in all parts of the world.  The series features monographs and collections which explore the tensions in a ‘global/local world’, and includes contributions from all disciplines in recognition of the fact that no single approach can capture these complex processes.

Gender and ConflictRecent volumes in this series include Gender and Conflict, which examines how cognition and behaviour, agency and victimization, are gendered beyond the popular stereotypes. Conducting in-depth case studies into such topics as women’s violence and gender relations in the Israeli Defence Forces and the role of female combatants in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, the book offers insight into worlds that are new and often surprising and unconventional.

When care work goes globalWhen Care Work Goes Global provides an innovative view on the new international division of reproductive labour, demonstrating how and why domestic and care work has developed into the largest occupation sector for female migrants worldwide, encompassing not only migration movements from the global South to the global North but also those from rural to urban areas.

Gender integration in nato military forcesLana Obradovic’s Gender Integration in NATO Military Forces examines twenty-four NATO member states, asking why states abandon their policies of exclusion and promote gender integration, admitting women into their military forces, in such a way that women’s military participation becomes an integral part of military force.

As the world continues to change the Gender in a Global/Local World series highlights the need for academic research to keep up, exploring the new and continued gendered tensions and conflicts between global and local cultures.

To read more about this series please visit www.ashgate.com/GGLW, where you can also read reviews and excerpts of the books, or visit our Gender and Politics page to see more Ashgate titles on the subject.

Sara Khan on the battle for British Islam

Following the attacks in Paris last week, one of the contributors to our book Sensible Religion, Sara Khan, spoke on the BBC Panorama programme ‘The Battle for British Islam’. The programme is available to UK viewers on BBC iPlayer.

Sara Khan is Director and Co-Founder of Inspire, a non-governmental advocacy organisation (NGO) working to counter extremism and gender inequality. Her chapter in Sensible Religion is entitled “Retrieving the equilibrium and Restoring Justice: Using islam’s egalitarian teachings to Reclaim women’s Rights”.

The chapter examines Islam’s teachings on women’s rights and the purpose of shariah as a dynamic and sophisticated process for establishing equilibrium, securing justice and serving the public interest. It also explores the dominance of a literal decontextualized and patriarchal interpretation of Islam’s religious texts which has influenced sections of Muslim thought. It outlines the historical and contemporary reality of some Muslims, in manipulating and misusing Islam for their own authority whether political, economic or social to those Muslims who through the combined use of modern day Islamic law and international human rights law have secured the rights of Muslim women.

Read the full text of the chapter in Sensible Religion here.

100th volume published in the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series

Posted by Hattie Wilson, Marketing Executive

Autobiographical writing by early modern hispanic womenAshgate will publish the one hundredth title in the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series in January 2015. The series editors, Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger produced their first volume in 2000 (Maternal Measures, Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh). Fifteen years later, we can announce the one hundredth title is Autobiographical Writing by Early Modern Hispanic Women by Elizabeth Teresa Howe. The work focuses on the contributions of women writers to the study of life writing, and offers a symmetrical theme to the initial volume in the series.

We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger, as well as thanking them for their dedication to their role. To view the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series in its entirety, and to read an interview with the series editors, please click here.

Forthcoming titles in the series:


Call for Papers: Playthings in Early Modernity: Party Games, Word Games, Mind Games (edited collection)

Posted by Erika Gaffney, Publishing Manager

Contributions are sought for an interdisciplinary collection of essays to be edited by Allison Levy and published by Ashgate Publishing in the new book series, Cultures of Play, 1300-1700 (series editor Bret Rothstein). Dedicated to early modern playfulness, this series serves two purposes. First, it recounts the history of wit, humor, and games, from jokes and sermons, for instance, to backgammon and blind man’s buff. Second, in addressing its topic – ludic culture – broadly, Cultures of Play also provides a forum for reconceptualizing the play elements of early modern economic, political, religious, and social life.

Within this framework, PLAYTHINGS IN EARLY MODERNITY: PARTY GAMES, WORD GAMES, MIND GAMES emphasizes the rules of the game(s) as well as the breaking of those rules: playmates and game changers, teammates and tricksters, matchmakers and deal breakers, gamblers and grifters, scripts and ventriloquism, charades and masquerades, game pieces and pawns. Thus, a ‘plaything’ is understood as both an object and a person, and play, in early modern Europe (1300-1700), is treated not merely as a pastime, a leisurely pursuit, but also as a pivotal part of daily life, a strategic psychosocial endeavor: Why do we play games – with and upon each other as well as ourselves? Who are the winners, and who are the losers? Desirable essays will also consider the spaces of play: from the stage to the street, from the pulpit to the piazza, from the bedroom to the brothel: What happens when players go ‘out of bounds,’ or when games go ‘too far’? We seek new and innovative scholarship at the nexus of material culture/the study of objects, performance studies, and game theory. We welcome proposals from a wide range of disciplines, including gender studies, childhood studies, history, languages and literature, theater history, religious studies, the history and philosophy of science, philosophy, psychology, and the history of art and visual culture.

PLAYTHINGS IN EARLY MODERNITY: PARTY GAMES, WORD GAMES, MIND GAMES will be an illustrated volume, with individual contributors responsible for any permission and/or art acquisition fees. Final essays, of approximately 8,000 words (incl. notes), and all accompanying b&w illustrations/permissions will be due no later than January 15, 2015. For consideration, please send an abstract (max. 500 words), a preliminary list of illustrations (if applicable), and a CV to Allison Levy (allisonlevy2@gmail.com or playthingsvolume@gmail.com) by September 15, 2014. Notifications will be emailed by the end of September.