Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Lisa Wynn, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia
Location: 51 Hillhouse, Room 101
Time: 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Title: “Hymenoplasty, virginity testing, and the simulacra of female respectability”
Based on ethnographic research, formal interviews with laypeople and physicians, and a review of Egyptian court rulings and revolutionary graffiti, this article situates Egyptian political protesters’ battles over the state’s ‘virginity testing’ in the ethnographic context of cultural beliefs about the hymen and women’s moral purity. The use of hymens in social and political theatre can only be understood by appreciating that a woman’s hymen, her sexual purity, and thus her social respectability are all simulacra, in the Baudrillardian sense: a substitution of the signs of the real for the real, and which are thus more real than real. This article analyzes hymens and graffiti as memory-objects that construct idealized moral histories, and which open up possibilities for creative manoeuvres in the social construction of women’s moral identities that draw on the sensory registers of blood and hymens at the same time that they reveal these to be simulacra.