womb as oasis: the symbolic context of Pharaonic circumcision in rural Northern Sudan



This paper represents an effort to understand why Pharaonic circumcision of females persists in the Sudanese village of Hofriyat despite numerous attempts to effect its eradication. After a brief consideration of the custom's proposed origins and functions, its rich symbolic context is examined in some detail. Here it emerges that female circumcision is intricately related to a wide variety of local customs and beliefs, all of which appear to be informed by several related idioms stressing the relative value of “enclosedness.” The paper suggests that for those who have undergone it and who advocate its continuance, Pharaonic circumcision is an assertive, highly meaningful act that emphasizes feminine fertility by de-emphasizing female sexuality, [genital mutilation, circumcision, symbolism, women, Sudan, gender]