Resistance to the Eradication of Female Circumcision and the Political Economy of Underdevelopment in Cameroon.
This article examines resistance to the eradication of the ritual practice of female circumcision in the enclaves populated by the Ejagham people in Southwest Cameroon. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this study shows how in the face of abject poverty and institutionalized state marginalization, resistance to opponents of female circumcision becomes a placemaking project. It demonstrates that the social arrangement sustaining female circumcision has been kept in place by conditions of poverty, underdevelopment, and dependency as well as by local gendered discourses of respectability, honor, and reciprocity among kin and community. Within this system of inequality, women use ritual female circumcision as a powerful tool for negotiating with patriarchy. By focusing on health alone, antifemale circumcision interventions by both the state and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) miss the point even as this practice is increasingly becoming a human, social, gender rights, and development issue. The article suggests that for health education to be successful, it must take cognizance of the local needs met by female circumcision so as to empower the people as dialogic partners in development and not ostracize the target population.