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Frontiers of Medicine in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1899–1940$
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Heather Bell

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198207498

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207498.001.0001

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Midwifery Training and the Politics of Female Circumcision

Midwifery Training and the Politics of Female Circumcision

(p.198) 7 Midwifery Training and the Politics of Female Circumcision
Frontiers of Medicine in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1899–1940

Heather Bell

Oxford University Press

Training Sudanese midwives and supervising all midwifery practice constituted a distinctive enterprise for the Sudan medical service. The Midwifery Training School, opened in Omdurman in 1921, recognized practitioners of traditional medicine as agents who could be reformed: it sought to create a class of modern, trained Sudanese midwives, out of, and in rivalry to, an entrenched class of traditional midwives known as dayas. Such a transformation required constant and explicit engagement with Sudanese people, and their cultural norms about gender roles and intimate practices such as childbirth and female circumcision. This chapter argues that the interaction between traditional and Western medicine, and between Sudanese and British cultures engendered by midwifery training and practice in the colonial context, was highly complex and constantly being negotiated. It shows that hierarchies of gender, race, occupation, and class disciplined the medical service's employment of non-European personnel. In addressing the government's handling of the controversial matter of female circumcision, the chapter also provides evidence of the rigid boundary sometimes drawn between medicine and politics in Sudan.

Keywords:   Sudan, training, midwives, midwifery, Midwifery Training School, traditional medicine, Western medicine, politics, female circumcision, gender

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