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)
  • Teaching
  • Research


Hannelore Van Bavel
Hannelore Van Bavel
Email address:
Thesis title:
The production and travel of discourses on female genital surgeries: a nodal ethnography of the global anti-FGM/C domain
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


I hold a MSc in Sociology (with Major in Conflict and Development) and a MA in Gender and Diversity Studies. I am interested in discourses on women and so-called 'harmful practices' in the Global South, in particular in East Africa. My PhD fieldwork took place in London, Senegal, and Kenya. I have previously conducted research on sex work and female circumcision in Tanzania.

PhD Research

My PhD research is a nodal ethnography of the global anti-FGM domain. In particular, it traces the production and international travel of discourses on female genital mutilation/cutting or female circumcision. I am interested in why and how certain discourses on FGM/C gain global reach while others remain marginal or are actively silenced. In addition, I look at how discourses are translated as they travel and at the interests behind and material conditions surrounding said discourses. .


  • Van Bavel, Hannelore. ‘At the Intersection of Place, Gender, and Ethnicity: Changes in Female Circumcision among Kenyan Maasai’. Gender, Place & Culture, 22 May 2019, 1–22.
  • 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.


  • Upcoming: Of Love and Loss: Reflections on the methodological and epistemological implications of grieving in the field. July 2020. EASA 2020: New anthropological horizons in and beyond Europe: European Association of Social Anthropologists, Lisbon, Portugal.
  • Upcoming: Doctor Tatu Kamau and Kenya’s Prohibition of FGM Act: the rise of a counternarrative to the anti-FGM campaign? October 2020. Symposium: Powerful Inscriptions and Inscriptions of Power: female bodies contested, invaded, defended and owned: King’s College, London, UK.
  • Postponed due to covid19: Justice, truth, and FGM/C: Contestations over the Kenyan Anti-FGM Act. 2020. Knowledge Frontiers Symposium: British Academy and British Institute for East Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • The Contradictory Role of the Protestant Church in Changing Female Genital Cutting among the Maasai – an Ethnographic Exploration. 2019. Religion and Harmful Practices: Religion and the Production of Difference. Annual Conference of the Dutch Association for the Study of Religion, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
  • Tracing the construction and diffusion of the Harmful Traditional Practices discourse: an ethnography of international efforts to end FGM/C in Kenya. 2017. (Re)framing Narratives of Africa: British Institute for East Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Anti-FGM/C projects in Tanzania: Resisting colonialism and racism within gender development Initiatives. 2015. Seminar Resistance(s) to Gender+ Equality: Universiteit Antwerpen, Ghent University, and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.


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


  • GTA Introduction to Social Anthropology


  • Gender, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Development, Discourses