A Feminist Analysis on Biopolitical State Regulation of Refugee Women with Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation in the United States and France
This thesis uses the Foucauldian model of the biopolitical state to explain the regulation of refugee women’s bodies who have undergone female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/M). The main theoretical framework for this thesis is inspired by Dr. Khiara Bridges’ work: Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization (2011). Her book explains how “material and societal conditions appear to affirm the veracity of race” (Bridges, 2011, 10). She describes pregnancy as a “racially salient event” that inevitably engages racial politics. In her book, she illustrates how the material body is the primary sign of racial difference (Bridges, 2011, 47). I argue that race and culture are inscribed in the body, and FGC/M is a physical representation of that inscription. As a result, a physical representation of racialization opens women with FGC/M to far more scrutiny and regulation. I define the United States and France as biopolitical states whose values and agendas regulate and police bodies to behave according to their norms. The value set that underlies the United States is predicated on principles of sovereignty, federalism, and an emphasis on a Puritanical work ethic where an individual must earn their benefits from the state. In France, however, there is less stigma surrounding social welfare but there is forced cultural assimilation that results in a singular, secular French identity. These value systems then inform the tools to police behavior. The tools, or systems, I have identified for this thesis are the adoption of human rights instruments into domestic law, refugee policy, healthcare systems, and regulation of women’s reproductive health. All of these macro-level systems then inform individual patient-provider relationships since those interactions are not independent of these systems. I argue that refugee women who have undergone FGC/M deviate from these prescribed norms and thus are subjugated to overwhelming biopolitical regulation.