SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Hannelore van Bavel

BSc Sociology (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) MSc Sociology (Ghent University) MA Gender & Diversity (Ghent University)
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Hannelore Van Bavel
Hannelore van Bavel
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Thesis title:
Tracing the construction and diffusion of the concept of 'harmful traditional practices' - a multi-sited ethnography of international efforts to eradicate 'FGM' and 'early marriage' in Kenya [working title]
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PhD Research

Since its first formal formulation in the UN Fact Sheet No. 23 in 1995, the concept of ‘harmful traditional practices’ (HTP) has not only influenced international perceptions of practices listed in the fact sheet, but it has also inspired various actors worldwide to take (or continue) action against them. While many scholars have examined various practices categorised as HTP, little research has focused on the concept itself. My proposed research aims to do just that: through a multi-sited mixed-method approach, it aims to examine the construction and diffusion of the HTP concept. I focus on two specific HTPs – ‘female genital mutilation’ and ‘early marriage’ – in the context of British anti-HTP efforts in Kenya. In doing so, my research situates the construction and diffusion of the HTP concept in a broader history of Western problematising of ‘African women’ and ‘tradition’, and consequent interventions in African women’s lives.


  • Van Bavel, Hannelore; Gily Coene and Els Leye. 2017. Changing practices and shifting meanings of female genital cutting among the Maasai of Arusha and Manyara Regions of Tanzania, Culture, Health & Sexuality, DOI:10.1080/13691058.2017.1313449
  • Van Bavel, Hannelore. 2016. Beyond exploitation: towards a nuanced understanding of agency for adolescent female sex workers – evidence from Zanzibar and Morogoro. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 19 (1): 76-90.


  • African Women's Studies Centre, University of Nairobi
  • SOAS Research Studentship 2016-2019