National Bodies, Unspeakable Acts: The Sexual Politicsof Colonial Policy-making

Pedersen, Susan G.

This analysis of the Kikuyu female circumcision controversy of the 1920s discusses how issues of sexual practice and sexual order proved useful vehicles for both Kenyan nationalist, and British nationalist and imperialist, agendas. The complex and acrimonious debate brought ideals of cultural self-expression, women's rights, and imperial hegemony into open conflict. On its most overt level, the debate in Britain shows how the tensions between feminist, imperialist, and nationalist interests could immobilize individuals and fragment campaigns. It can also help us to understand these early twentieth-century Britons' conception of female sexuality and, more broadly, of the place of women in national life.

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The Journal of Modern History

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January 6, 2014