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  2. GCSJ seminar series: Medical circumcision for HIV prevention in Kenya is a social justice issue (but we don't talk about it)

GCSJ seminar series: Medical circumcision for HIV prevention in Kenya is a social justice issue (but we don't talk about it)

Monday, June 20, 2022 - 12:00 to 13:30


Dr Mark Lamont, Lecturer in International Development for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at The Open University. 


Approximately 23 million medical circumcisions were carried out between 2007 and 2019 in eastern and southern Africa. Known as Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC), these circumcisions were part of a mass global health programme of HIV prevention targeting non-circumcising communities. VMMC was variously resisted in these communities when it was first rolled out, but not widely reported on as significant concerns about and for social justice. This contribution explores the cultural and political contexts of doing research on voluntary medical circumcision in Kenya and argues that social justice concerns have been censored through a mix of processes, some bureaucratic and tied to funding, while others impinge upon the politics of scientific peer review. One result has been a paucity of critical political-economic analyses of VMMC, while ethnographic access to VMMC programmes have been highly restricted. There is a prevailing fear among researchers that critiques of this medical intervention would result in them being labelled as anti-circumcision or as proponents of a polarised and, hence, compromised scientific community. If social justice is to be addressed as a central concern within global health interventions in eastern and southern Africa, examples such as the research on VMMC need to be subject to reflexive debate about the cost of scientific polarisation in the politics of knowledge production.

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The seminar series is organised by The Open University's Centre for Global Challenges and Social Justice (GCSJ). Established in October 2021, the Centre in the School of Social Sciences and Global Studies provides critical, interdisciplinary insight, and innovative, social justice driven solutions to challenges facing contemporary global societies. The Centre’s ambition is to understand the historical and structural underpinnings of contemporary societies; the systems of oppressions and inequalities they reproduce; and the resistances and struggles they generate.

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