anth 111 assign. 3 - Exploring Bodily Modifications in the...

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Exploring Bodily Modifications in the form of Circumcision Alissa Chanin ANTH 111 Amy Groleau 30 October 2007
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Ritual body modification behaviors are traditional and reflect the history, spiritualism, and beliefs of a society. They are culturally embedded in profound, elemental experiences especially connected to healing, spirituality, and social orderliness. There are various forms of bodily modifications as a traditional fixture in many cultures. Bodily Modification is not specific to one culture, nor one variety. Rather the custom of physical modification as a form of religious passage or as punishment for unforgivable deeds or gender is not uncommon. Circumcision, both male and female is one such physical modification that is both widely practiced as well as widely debated. However, circumcision should be viewed contextually. It is for all purposes a case study in how beliefs and rituals, regardless of how extreme or permanent they may be, can thrive in both our society as well as cultures far removed from our own. Traditional circumcision is found in sub-Saharan and North Africa, the Muslim Middle East, Judaism, aboriginal Australia, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. Jewish circumcision celebrates sexuality and bodily experience by marking a religious covenant in flesh (CIRP 2001). In Africa, circumcision represents common symbolic themes such as the enhancement of masculine virility and fertility, opposition between men and women, preparation for marriage and adult sexuality, and the hardening of boys for warfare (Lugemwa 2007). Female circumcision may be performed for hygienic and aesthetic reasons or the most common reason, to preserve girls’ virginities for marriage (Myers 2003). However, in some parts of Africa female circumcision is a form of punishment for sexual exploration or merely as a means of gender discrimination. Circumcision is just as much a means of showing regard to the social order as it is any other reason. This first evidence of circumcision is found in illustrations on tomb walls circa 3000 BC. It is constructed from these images that the ritual was restricted to the nobility (Silverman 2004). Throughout the following centuries, the practice of circumcision was adopted by the lower
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class of Jews in Egypt. The use of circumcision here is slightly different from the earlier instance. Whereas circumcision is used outwardly to enforce the social order it is still a symbolic manner in which people gained entrance to a social group (CIRP 2001). Although the practice of circumcision was not specific to the Jewish community of the time. It had been practiced nearly a thousand years before even the Egyptians in American, Australian, and West African aboriginal cultures (Silverman 2004). The Jews however, differed with their association of the ritual to the spiritual covenant. The combination of these two characteristics made the ritual more permanent as well as more attractive to different cultures. Circumcision in Judaism mimics female
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anth 111 assign. 3 - Exploring Bodily Modifications in the...

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