Decolonising social norms change: An analysis of the politics of knowledge production in relation to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and child marriage

01 October 2022 → 30 September 2025
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Anthropology of economy and development
    • Medical anthropology
    • Postcolonial studies
    • Social and cultural anthropology
knowledge production gender global health
Project description

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage are framed within development discourse as major causes of gendered health inequalities, resulting in significant investment to reduce them. For 15 years, the main theoretical framework for tackling these issues has been social norms change. Yet, anthropologists and postcolonial scholars have critiqued dominant social norms change models and interventions for their lack of sensitivity to cultural dynamics, and for imposing Eurocentric priorities and concepts, reflecting neocolonial hierarchies in knowledge production. Hence, calls have been made to ‘decolonise’ global health by opening up knowledge production to more diverse perspectives. Such calls, however, ignore how decolonial critiques of social norms and alternative approaches have existed for decades but fail to get traction in the marketplace of policy-making advice. This project aims to understand the politics of knowledge production in relation to social norms change as applied to FGM/C and child marriage, to produce evidence to inform strategies to promote interventions which are effective but which also align with beneficiaries’ concerns, values and worldviews. Methods include a participatory analysis of such a decolonial approach by NGO Grandmother Project and surveys and interviews with academics and development actors. Outputs will be 2 articles, a special issue, short online pieces, 3-4 webinars, a strategy guide for practitioners, and a conference.