Decolonizing Health Research on Female Genital Cutting
The current ANS featured article addresses a social/cultural and health issue that has engaged intense discussion in many circles for a number of years – the issue of genital cutting. The article is titled “A Decolonizing Methodology for Health Research on Female Genital Cutting,” authored by Jane Werunga, MSN, RN; Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham, PhD, RN and Carol Ewashen, PhD, RN, and it is available for free download on the ANS website while it is featured. We invite you to download your copy of this article and return here to participate in discussion of ideas and issues addressed here.
Ms. Werunga shared this message about her work:
It is an immense pleasure to have our article featured on the ANS blog. The idea for this article was conceived from a course on critical perspectives in nursing and health care that I took under the guidance of Dr. Sheryl
Reimer-Kirkham in my quest to understand alternative methodologies for researching marginalized populations. Coming from a non-research background, I had very little knowledge on the multiple theories and methodologies that guide contemporary health research, but I understood that a fitting methodology would need to be sufficient enough to cover the complexity of the topic that I was proposing, which was research on African immigrant and refugee women and girls who have experienced female genital cutting (FGC).
Immigrants occupy unique cultural and spatial locations where they are constantly having to negotiate new ways of doing and being while adapting to new identities which for most, are marginalized and “marked” by historical, cultural, political, and migratory forces. The worldwide controversy surrounding the practice of FGC further compounds issues for affected women and girls living in Western locales particularly with regards to their health and wellbeing. I believe that nursing research on immigrants should reflect this conflation of experiences in order to fully lay bare the
socio-political and cultural structures that inform their health and health seeking behaviors. When I embarked on my doctoral research on FGC, I quickly realized that I could not locate this study within mainstream methodologies given the complexity of the issues therein. I needed a multifactorial approach that could fully capture the many forces at play. Critical decolonizing perspectives offer this alternative, and this article is an initial attempt to curve out an innovative methodology that combines several critical perspectives including African feminism, in an effort to reconceptualize FGC research in a new cultural dispensation. Critical perspectives disrupt commonplace pathologizing, criminalizing, and demonizing discourses, as reflected in the shift in language from “female genital mutilation” to “female genital cutting”.
This article reflects my doctoral work-in-progress; PhD supervisors and co-authors, Dr. Ewashen and Dr. Reimer-Kirkham, remain instrumental in the conceptualization of this methodology as I move into the fieldwork phase of my research. Dr. Ewashen’s knowledge on body politics, critical feminist, and poststructural research
(http://nursing.ucalgary.ca/nursing_info/profiles/carol-ewashen) and Dr. Reimer-Kirkham’s vast experience in
the areas of culture, equity, and health (http://twu.ca/directory/faculty/sheryl-reimer-kirkham.html) will no doubt be invaluable as I map out a rigorous and scientifically valid method that reflects the complexities of the experiences of affected women and girls. The endpoint of my research is the provision of socially just, relevant, timely, and equitable nursing and other health care services to marginalized populations.
We appreciate the opportunity to share our developing ideas in this area of nursing research.