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Maxwell African Scholars Union presents: Saida Hod�ic

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Maxwell African Scholars Union Presents: On the Road with NGOSs: Secrecy, Transparency, and Power of Persuasive Gaps by Saida Hodžic

This paper examines Ghanaian NGOs’ use of knowledge in outreach projects aimed at ending female genital cutting. I ask what kind of knowledge is used and comes to be understood as truth in the encounters between NGOs and rural communities. What are the NGOs’ logics and practices of persuasion? What assemblages of knowledge and power gain local traction? Knowledge must circulate to be authoritative, anthropologists and science studies scholars agree. My argument is that knowledge becomes authoritative through both circulation and stoppage. On the basis of ethnographic research, I show that the NGOs are effective because of the interplay of transparency, secrecy, and productive gaps in understanding. I argue that persuasion depends on performance of truth, rather than the latest biomedical knowledge or newly calibrated policy prescriptions.

Saida Hodžic is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Cornell University. She received a PhD in Medical Anthropology from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, and taught at George Mason University and Brown University, where she held the first Louise Lamphere Visiting Assistant Professorship in Gender Studies. Her research examines the relationship between activism and governmentality in contemporary transnational movements that take gendered bodies as a site of intervention. She has published on Ghanaian NGOs’ cultures of governance and their transnational dimensions. Her work focuses on productive aspects of political formations whose effects are not simply salutary, the contingencies of governmental power, and the unintended consequences of NGOs’ tenuous successes. Her forthcoming book, Of Rebels, Spirits, and Social Engineers: The Awkward Endings of Female Genital Cutting examines the logics, techniques, and effects of Ghanaian interventions against cutting.

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