Circumcision, Public Health, Genital Autonomy and Cultural Rights

Call for Papers for issue of Global Discourse

Issue title: Circumcision, Public Health, Genital Autonomy and Cultural Rights


Initial submission of 300-500 word abstracts: 15th November 2011

Submission of 6,000-8,000 word articles on invitation: 1st March 2012

Date of issue publication: 1st July 2012

About the title

Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, issue-oriented journal, operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The journal aims to lead discussions and debates on current affairs by promoting intensive, discursive evaluation of ideas, tenets and practices. The core tenet is that key issues in current affairs can be addressed only through the creation of forums in which to apply theoretical approaches developed in artificially isolated disciplines. Each issue of the journal is themed, containing six 6,000-8,000 word articles, each accompanied by a 1,500-3,000 reply from an established figure in the field (to which authors can also reply), and two book review symposia, each containing three 1,500 word reviews and one reply from the author. Full details of the publication are available at At present, papers are solicited for the issue outlined below.


Circumcision is one of the oldest and most common surgical practices, being practised, for a range of perceived medical, social and religious reasons, on up to 30% of males worldwide. At present, circumcision is being promoted by a range of international health bodies, such as the World Health Organisation, as a means of tackling HIV in developing countries. Yet, there is significant concern, both, about sexual, physiological and psychological effects and complications and the prophylactic effectiveness of the practice. In Western countries, in particular, a range of ‘intactivist’ organisations and campaign groups have emerged, drawing qualitative parallels with female genital cutting. For these groups, genital autonomy, or the right of individuals to be protected from invasive surgery conducted during minority, is seen to be of paramount importance to respect for persons. This movement has emerged at a time in which circumcision rates in states such as the US have declined and many medical bodies have sought either to exercise caution on claims of medical benefits while deferring to parental choice in non-therapeutic instances, such as the BMA, or to reject the practice in all but the most essential medical cases, such as the Dutch KNMG. Simultaneously, though, international public health bodies, such as the WHO, have increasingly sought to re-invigorate the practice overseas, particularly in the African continent. While the core concerns of genital autonomy appear to be of persisting relevance to these efforts, there is also scope for concern regarding potential implications of imposing a practice on non-circumcising peoples. Whereas attempts to challenge female genital cutting in areas of Africa were met with criticism by multiculturalist thinkers, such as Yael Tamir, for their imperialist implications, there has been little by way of opposition to the infliction of a practice by Western bodies. The apparent contradictions and complications of the contemporary status and deployment of circumcision raise serious, wide-reaching questions:

–          Should gender be of significance in considering claims for genital autonomy?

–          In the context of widespread prohibition of FGC and recent attempts in San Francisco to prohibit the infliction of circumcision on minors, to what extent can law assist in challenging apparently invasive cultural practices?

–          Which values should be of importance when considering the status of invasive practices? Community? Solidarity? Autonomy? What costs are involved in reforming or eradicating practices?

–          Are there any particular interests that motivate the promotion of the practice, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa?

–          Is there reason to view the promotion of circumcision in the developing world as imperialistic? Is there a clash of values implicit in promoting circumcision among non-circumcising groups? Why is there little opposition to the practice among those who opposed as imperialistic attempts by Western activists to tackle female genital cutting?

The aim of this issue of Global Discourse is to examine the apparent complications and contradictions above. In order to achieve this, we invite submissions of abstracts for papers addressing the sorts of questions outlined above. In particular, we encourage the submission of papers which transcend disciplinary boundaries. The journal has no fixed ideological affiliation and we seek to encourage diversity of thought, especially on normative questions.


Deadlines are listed at the beginning of this flyer. Abstracts should be between 300-500 words for initial assessment. The editors will invite full article submissions from those papers deemed most suitable for the issue. Articles will be subject to double-blind review. The two-stage review process in Global Discourse, in which a final, 3,000 word substantive reply to the paper is published alongside the article, differs from that in other journals. Full details are available at A style guide and submission guidelines are provided at

Please submit all abstracts and address all enquiries to Matthew Johnson at

Date of publication: summer 2012