Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Negotiating change: Studying the impacts of medical male circumcision on traditional beliefs in Western Kenya

Kabare, Margaret (2019) Negotiating change: Studying the impacts of medical male circumcision on traditional beliefs in Western Kenya. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Download (1MB) | Preview


Medical male circumcision (MMC) was introduced in various sub-Saharan African countries from 2007 as a biomedical intervention for HIV prevention. The introduction of MMC for HIV prevention has occurred at a time when African societies are experiencing rapid transformations in the face of modernisation and globalization. Combined, the processes of modernisation and globalization are altering how individuals engage with traditions. Among the areas where striking changes have occurred is health. Various scholars have drawn attention to the ongoing intensification of medicalization and public health interventions premised on the modern notion of rational decision-making individuals, although the complexity of how these changes interact with traditional and localized contexts is not well understood. With a focus on the Kenyan context, this mixed-method, multi-sited study explores the extent to which medical male circumcision impacts on traditional ideas, beliefs, and behaviours and vice versa. The study draws on perspectives about male circumcision (MC) in a region where some ethnic groups practice MC as a cultural tradition while others do not, and where MMC is now promoted as an intervention for HIV prevention. Through a mixed-methods process of data collection and analysis, four broad themes emerged: the construction of new, modern identities via traditional ideas as driving the uptake of the intervention; the disruption of traditional practices and ideas and the emergence of identity crises; the construction of biomedical knowledge in ways that both potentiate and suppress the uptake of the intervention in contemporary settings; and the persistence of traditional ideas and practices which generally impede the spread of biomedical innovations. The study concludes that within the Kenyan context, the adoption of a modern, biomedical intervention has had significant impacts on the beneficiaries, with several of these impacts being unintended. The meanings attached to MC reflect both the traditional and the modern in complex ways linked to changing socio-political contexts (both micro and macro) and varied rationalities, underlining the way that the dissemination of modern, biomedical knowledge is heavily contextualized.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Global Studies
Supervisor(s): Northcote, Jeremy, Aleri, Joshua and Palmer, David
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year