Anthro in the news 7/29/13

• Female genital cutting: a practice in decline

Several mainstream media sources discussed the findings of a comprehensive new assessment led by UNICEF about the practice of female genital cutting in Africa and the Middle East. The data indicate a gradual but significant decline in many countries.

Female genital mutilation Economist
Source: Economist

Teenage girls are now less likely to have been cut than older women in more than half of the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated. In Egypt, for example, where more women have been cut than in any other nation, survey data showed that 81 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds had undergone the practice, compared with 96 percent of women in their late 40s.

Generational change appears to be playing an important role in the decline with the difference in Egypt especially marked: only a third of teenage girls who were surveyed thought it should continue, compared with almost two-thirds of older women.

Researchers say the progress in Kenya makes sense, given efforts there to stop female genital cutting starting in the early 1900s. But they were at a loss to explain why the rate has plunged in the Central African Republic, to 24 percent in 2010 from 43 percent in the mid-1990s. Concerning the findings about the Central African Republic, The New York Times quotes Bettina Shell-Duncan, a cultural anthropology professor at the University of Washington who was a consultant on the report: “We have no idea, not even a guess, noting that researchers need to study the causes of the decline there.

Blogger’s note: for a list of related readings, see the global∙gender∙current blog post.

• Indigenous people’s knowledge and climate change

An article on the importance of indigenous knowledge in addressing climate change in The Democratic Daily cites the work of Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, Brazilian cultural anthropologist and emeritus professor of the Department of Anthropology at Chicago University and the University of São Paulo.

She says indigenous people have an important contribution to make to knowledge about climate change, and scientists should listen to them because they are very well informed about their local climate as well as the natural world. Their knowledge, she says, is not a “treasure” of data to be stored and used when wanted by others, but a living and evolving process: “It is important to understand that traditional wisdom is not something simply transmitted from generation to generation. It is alive, and traditional and indigenous peoples are continually producing new knowledge.”

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