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Fearful Symmetries

Essays and Testimonies Around Excision and Circumcision

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Edited by Chantal Zabus

Often labelled ‘rituals’ or ‘customs’, male circumcision and female excision are also irreversible amputations of human genitalia, with disastrous and at times life-long consequences for both males and females. However, scholars and activists alike have been diffident about making a case for symmetry between these two practices. Fearful Symmetries investigates the sociological, medical, legal, and religious justifications for male circumcision and female excision while it points to various symmetries and asymmetries in their discursive representation in cultural anthropology, law, medicine, and literature.
Experts have been convened in the above fields – SAMI ALDEEB ABU-SAHLIEH, DOMINIQUE ARNAUD, LAURENCE COX, ROBERT DARBY, ANNE–MARIE DAUPHIN–TINTURIER, TOBE LEVIN, MICHAEL SINGLETON, J. STEVEN SVOBODA – along with first-person testimonies from J.K. BRAYTON, SAFAA FATHY, KOFFI KWAHULÉ, and ALEX WANJALA. The volume covers various genres such as sacred writings, literary and philosophical texts, websites, songs, experiential vignettes, cartoons, and film as well as a vast geographical spectrum – from Algeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Kenya, and Somalia to the then Congo and contemporary Northern Zambia; from Syria to Australia and the United States.
In addressing many variants of excision and circumcision as well as other practices such as the elongation of the labia, and various forms of circumcision in Jewish, Islamic, and African contexts, Fearful Symmetries provides an unprecedented, panoptical view of both practices.

The African Palimpsest

Indigenization of Language in the West African Europhone Novel. Second Enlarged Edition

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Chantal Zabus

Uniting a sense of the political dimensions of language appropriation with a serious, yet accessible linguistic terminology, The African Palimpsest examines the strategies of ‘indigenization’ whereby West African writers have made their literary English or French distinctively ‘African’. Through the apt metaphor of the palimpsest – a surface that has been written on, written over, partially erased and written over again – the book examines such well-known West African writers as Achebe, Armah, Ekwensi, Kourouma, Okara, Saro–Wiwa, Soyinka and Tutuola as well as lesser-known writers from francophone and anglophone Africa. Providing a great variety of case-studies in Nigerian Pidgin, Akan, Igbo, Maninka, Yoruba, Wolof and other African languages, the book also clarifies the vital interface between Europhone African writing and the new outlets for African artistic expression in (auto-)translation, broadcast television, radio and film.

Chantal Zabus

The essay shows how Ezenwa–Ohaeto's poetry in pidgin, particularly in his collection (1988), emblematizes a linguistic interface between, on the one hand, the pseudo-pidgin of Onitsha Market pamphleteers of the 1950s and 1960s (including in its gendered guise as in Cyprian Ekwensi) and, on the other, its quasicreolized form in contemporary news and television and radio dramas as well as a potential first language.

While locating Nigerian Pidgin or EnPi in the wider context of the emergence of pidgins on the West African Coast, the essay also draws on examples from Joyce Cary, Frank Aig–Imoukhuede, Ogali A. Ogali, Ola Rotimi, Wole Soyinka, and Tunde Fatunde among others. It is not by default but out of choice and with their 'informed consent' that EnPi writers such as Ezenwa–Ohaeto contributed to the unfinished plot of the pidgin–creole continuum.

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Chantal Zabus