Naar inhoud

FWO-Project Harmful Cultural Practices. A critical analysis of cross-cultural discourses and moral understandings of gender, sexuality and embodiment

PhD Research:

  • Ladan Rahbari: “Gender, sexuality and the moral body. A qualitative study of perspections and experiences of body management among women in Iran and Iranian migrant women in Belgium”
  • Susan Dierickx: “Local practices, social suffering and silent violence. The experiences of women with infertility in The Gambia”


Promotors: prof. dr. Gily Coene (VUB) & prof. dr. Chia Longman (Ghent University)

The concept of ‘harmful cultural practices’ has been increasingly used in development and human rights discourse to refer to practices such as female genital cutting, honour related violence orforced marriages. However, this concept has not been interrogated for its scholarly viability nor hasthere been a systematic attempt to apply a critical and cross-cultural comparative approach tonormative issues concerning gender, sexuality and embodiment. The aim of this project is (1) to critically question the analytical viability and the strategic potential of the notion of harmful culturalpractices; (2) to gain a better insight into the way in which women in a migration context experienceand negotiate moral and cultural understandings concerning gender, sexuality and embodiment,and (3) to develop an alternative framework that incorporates different cultural perspectives andepistemologies and that allows to question, explain and challenge gender inequalities anddiscriminatory practices.

This project is situated at the crossroads of the fields of moral sciences and applied ethics, the anthropology of religion and secularism, of comparative religion, and broader, religious studies as an interdisciplinary field. It draws on theoretical insights from feminist ethics, gender studies and contemporary theories of morality, religion and secularism as they are being debated across a number of disciplines today. Methodologically, it employs qualitative research methods, including discourse analysis, life story analysis and focus group, techniques commonly applied in the fields mentioned above. Gender, in relation to sexuality, ethnicity and other identity markers is a central category of analysis in this project.