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Modelling The Social Dynamics Of Female Genital Mutilation: Methodological Discussion And Development

posted on 02.12.2020, 22:47 by Laurence T. Droy
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a harmful traditional practice involving injury to female genitals for non-medical reasons. Despite intense international effort, the practice remains widespread. Academics and policymakers have shown considerable interest in understanding the social dynamics of FGM. The understanding of the practice as a ‘Social Convention’ or ‘Social Norm of Coordination’ has had a noticeable impact on efforts to eradicate it.
Analysis of the social dynamics of FGM has drawn on formal modelling, especially game-theory. This research approach is critically discussed. The use of formal modelling is characterised as essential to the problem, but fraught with challenges. Examples of these challenges are discussed and organised around the concept of uncertainty in model design. This provides insight into the status of existing models and theory of FGM.
A novel modelling strategy is developed and implemented to help address model uncertainty, based on techniques from agent-based social simulation. As part of this strategy, distinctive ‘core’ theories of FGM decision-making are identified and subjected to empirical testing. Possible de-idealisations and elaborations of currently used coordination models are explored through robustness analysis. Subsequently, an agent-based simulation model is developed which encompasses a range of these design possibilities. Using sensitivity analysis and secondary data, key uncertainties in the design of this model are identified and calibrated using empirical data. The model is then tested and deployed to identify ‘possible scenarios’ through which social dynamics could undermine anti-FGM interventions.
Alongside contributions to modelling the social dynamics of FGM, this activity contributes new empirical research on FGM decision-making. It also offers new methodological directions to the field and leads to a model-centric perspective on theories of the social dynamics of FGM.



Edmund Chattoe-Brown

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Author affiliation

School of Media, Communication and Sociology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

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