Introduction to “Harmful Cultural Practices”
The editors of this volume are by training anthropologists who both work on issues that potentially would be included under the scope of HCPs. Their foci include the rights and representation of ethnic-minority and migrant women in the West-European context, including issues such as the hijab, forced marriages and honour related violence (Longman 2003, Coene and Longman 2008, 2010, Bradley 2011), and in the South on issues such as dowry and violence against women (Bradley, Tomalin and Subramaniam 2009). Yet strangely enough, save some exceptions (Jeffreys 2005, Longman and Leye 2011), we rarely encountered the term in the academic literature we were familiar with in either anthropology or the field of gender and women’s studies. By contrast, what appears to be identified as the paradigmatic HCP in policy and activist circles, namely “female genital mutilation” (FGM), has been subject of study across many disciplines, from medical, social and political sciences, to history and literary studies, development studies, and women’s studies and feminist philosophy. However, this practice in all its diversity has caused much discussion and controversy, particularly in anthropology, in how it should be interpreted and approached, attested by the unresolved debate on appropriate terminology, ranging from FGM to “female circumcision” (FC) and “female genital cutting” (FGC) (cf. Nnaemeka 2005, Hernlund and Shell-Duncan 2007, Fedorak 2013). We assumed the omission of the concept of HPCs in academia could therefore not merely be coincidental and could similarly warrant – and provoke – some discussion. Hence the idea to
address the viability of the concept of HCP for theory and research by organizing a workshop session for the annual conference of the American Association of Anthropologists which took place in Montréal in November 2011.