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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The limits of the civilizing mission: a comparative analysis of British Protestant missionary campaigns to end footbinding and female circumcision
Author:Lau, Bryony
Periodical:Social Sciences and Missions = Sciences sociales et missions
Geographic terms:Kenya
Subjects:female circumcision
External link:https://doi.org/10.1163/187489408X342282
Abstract:Drawing on international relations theory, this article examines why a British missionary campaign against footbinding in China at the turn of the 20th century succeeded, while a similar campaign against female circumcision in Kenya in the 1920s failed. It argues that the different outcomes can be explained by the incentives new local elites had in swiftly changing political climates to adopt, adapt or reject foreign norms promoted by missionaries. Whereas Chinese reformers recast footbinding as a source of China's weakness, the emerging nationalist elite among the Kikuyu in Kenya argued for the continuation of female circumcision as part of anticolonial resistance. It seems that missionary tactics, though not unimportant, were less important than elites' evaluations of the advantageousness of accepting or rejecting the foreign norm in a given political climate. Timing was also important. In Kenya, missionaries ratcheted up their efforts to end female circumcision at the same time as the younger generation of Kikuyu men were angling for better self-representation free from paternalistic missionary oversight. Notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]