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Final plenary papers of the Mekrijärvi 2002 seminar

Violence, women and the political body: the case of female circumcision

My presentation concerns violence in relationship to female circumcision as a cultural and ritual practice. I focus my discussion on two different cultural instances: Somalis in Somalia and Somalis in London. In Somalia female circumcision, certainly intense in terms of physical force, is an act within the law and moral set-up. In London, however, female circumcision is defined as a criminal act. These are two different situations mediated by myself (as a witness and author), and by Somali women (and men) who have moved from one place to the other.

At the crossroads of Religion and medical anthropology
"The new era requires a theory of extreme upheaval, a semiotics of violent chaos, a phenomenology of desperate failure. While even those accounts will require cultural grounding and symbolic exegesis, their vector, we must assume, will be toward the ethnography of disordered states."

These words by Harvard's medical anthropologist, Arthur Kleinman, prompt us onto a terrain of analysis where we can discern some of the most interesting crossings of religion and anthropology. The crossings play within a homology that this paper explores, between religious-like characteristics in some medical anthropologists' own interpretive strategies, on the one hand, and their theories about religious (or spiritual) symbolic practices in the cultures they study, on the other.

Goin´ into the real world. Relevance and commitment of medical anthropology

In this lecture, I will explore the social tasks and social commitment of medical anthropology. I will reflect on some theoretical issues and discuss the dilemmas I experience with the help of my ethnographic work. I have no answers; I only have questions. This may be a weak bid. It is not the result of a lack of commitment, it is lack of scientific insight in a very complex world.

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