Fantasies of 'female genital mutilation' : flesh, law and freedom through psychoanalysis
AuthorRogers, Juliet A
AffiliationMelbourne Law School
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOnly available to University of Melbourne staff and students, login required
In 1996 the Crimes (Female Genital Mutilation) Act was passed in Victoria, Australia. The consultation with migrant communities, affected by the practices, was almost non-existent. The methods of the consultation, the implementation of the legislation and the use of the term "female genital mutilation" were objected to by the migrant communities. This objection and implementation mirrored similar legislative initiatives and similar methods of implementation in the United States, Canada, Scotland, England and Egypt. This thesis is an analysis of the speech on, and against, female genital mutilation. The analysis explores the texture of this speech, understood as a particular and invested arrangement of fantasy. This fantasy concerns the relation between the liberal subject and the sovereign. The relation is parsed in terms of the economic, the psychoanalytic and the political. These are the three idioms through which fantasies, of female genital mutilation emerge in contemporary times as a fantasy of flesh cut and the possibility of free speech. The thesis has four parts. In the first part it explores fantasies of subjectivity understood as the constitution of a mutilated woman against a fantasy of a non-mutilated liberal subject (as a postcolonial concern). The context for the exploration is firstly the emergence of the above mentioned Crimes (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 1996, and secondly its relations to the formation of the modern liberal subject (Rousseau, Hobbes, Schmitt and Freud). In Part B the thesis explores economies of flesh. First and foremost the economy is staged as a relation between the subject and the sovereign. This relation is figured as a tension between a fantasy of circumcision and a fantasy of mutilation. The psychoanalytic theories of Lacan and the political theories of Agamben are called to aid this exploration. In Part C the thesis discusses the politics of freedom articulated in sovereign democratic politics. Here the thesis moves from its focus on female genital mutilation legislation and places it in the contemporary politics of the `war on terror', evocations of national community and the problematics of a cultural pluralism. These are understood in terms of the differential orientations to loss (of freedom and speech)'; known as melancholia, psychosis and mourning. Mourning is the concern of Part D. In doing so the thesis returns to the speech on and against female genital mutilation and their invocations of human rights. The limits is figured in this part by reference to the protest of an African woman who says `I am not mutilated.' The figure of this woman returns us to the dialectic of flesh and speech that this thesis has argued embodies western fantasies of female genital mutilation. What is lost, but returns to haunt the liberal subject, imagining itself sovereign, is the possibility of freedom and an authorised loss of speech, in a democratic politics worthy of the name.
KeywordsClitoridectomy; Family law council (Australia); Female circumcision; Law and legislation; Legislation; Sex customs; Sex discrimination against women; Victoria
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References