Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Anthropology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 54 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Walter E. Little

Committee Members

Louise M. Burkhart, Sean M. Rafferty, Walter E. Little, Elise Andaya


Activists, Africa, Agency, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, Power, Social Movements, Female circumcision, Non-governmental organizations, Protest movements, Women

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Studies


In this thesis I highlight grassroots activists and social movements/mobilization against FGM/C throughout some of the regions where it's concentrated, and consider the political alliances that have aided these activists and their movements towards declines in the prevalence of the practice. I consider the recent outlawing of the practice in the Gambia (last year) which was strongly motivated by grassroots activists originally from the Gambia and the transnational political alliances they were able to form. I examine activists and movements in Senegal, paying particular attention to the approach of NGO TOSTAN. I also highlight long standing histories of grassroots activism against FGM/C in Kenya, a country which has seen large scale declines in the practice over the last several decades. In addition to highlighting areas that are witnessing declines in FGM/C, I consider Somalia where FGM/C has not been outlawed, and declines are not evident but public outreach against FGM/C is being engaged in within a context of providing maternal, infant and child health care. I emphasize the agency indigenous or “native” women show in challenging “traditional” “cultural” practices they themselves were subjected to at a young (nonconsensual) age. I propose the need for continued political, social and (in some cases) religious support in their endeavors, alliances outside of individual agency to challenge dominant power structures and traditional sociocultural customs.