Article: article from journal or magazin.
Hypospadias Surgery in a West African Context: The Surgical (Re-)Construction of What?
Since the late 1980s, intersex adults and activists have critiqued the clinical recommendations defined in the 1950s to treat children born with 'ambiguous genitalia' with normalising medicine. While their struggles continue, in particular to halt the practice of genital surgery in early infancy, some European surgeons travel to African countries to transfer standards of care that have become highly controversial in the North, including in the medical community. Simple disapproval of these tours as 'surgical safaris' forecloses the possibility of analysing more complex situations in which the so-called transfer of competence involves surgeons who promote 'less cutting and more talking'. Such is the case - and the interest - of the surgical missions in West Africa in which I conducted recent fieldwork, accompanying a team of paediatric surgeons from a European university hospital collaborating with a renowned international NGO. This article analyses the ways in which a variation of sex development called hypospadias is framed and managed in this context through what I call a surgical script for hypospadias. I examine the conditions of (im-)possibility for Northern surgeons to operationalise, and sometimes revise, this script at the missions (but also closer to home). I discuss what the surgeons do in practice to reflect critically on the normative work of the surgical script for hypospadias as a social script on morphological ideals of sex, gender and reproductive heterosexuality. I consider in what sense genital surgery can be said to (re-)construct 'normal'-looking genitalia, but also, fundamentally, the very idea of genitalia.
Africa, DSD, gender, genital surgery, heterosexuality, hypospadias, intersex, masculinity, NGO
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