HUMAN RITES is in large part inspired by the research and lives of:

Dr. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu,
Anthropologist and Co-Founder of African Women Are Free to Choose
Dr. Richard Shweder, 
Professor of Cultural Psychology, University of Chicago.

RESOURCES: See below for bios and other material


As a medical and symoblic anthropologist, Dr. Ahmadu has recently worked as senior research scholar under a Wenner Gren Fellowship and health advisor at the Office of the Vice President in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She worked for several years as a lead consultant for UNICEF in The Gambia and a principal investigator at the UK's Medical Research Council Laboratories also in The Gambia. In the U.S., Dr. Ahmadu has worked at the Child Development Branch as well as the Office of Global Health Research and International Activities of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at NIH. Dr. Ahmadu completed her PhD in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics and was awarded a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) post-doctoral training fellowship at the Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago.

As an independent scholar, Dr. Ahmadu’s theoretical interests include symbolic systems, gender constructs and sexuality. In her experience and expertise as both an insider and an outsider, Dr. Ahmadu has conducted research, written articles and lectured extensively on African female initiation rituals. She is a leading figure in critical debates on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and intersections with global health policies, human rights and western feminism.  Dr. Ahmadu is a co-signatory to the Public Policy Advisory Network on African Female Genital Surgeries (PPAN) published in The Hastings Center Report November/December 2012 issue.

Richard Shweder.jpg

About Dr. Richard A. Shweder 
Dr. Shweder is a cultural anthropologist and the Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Human Development. He received his Ph.D. degree in social anthropology in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard University in 1972, taught a year at the University of Nairobi in Kenya and has been at the University of Chicago ever since.

He is author of Thinking Through Cultures: Expeditions in Cultural Psychology and Why Do Men Barbecue? Recipes for Cultural Psychology (both published by Harvard University Press); and editor or co-editor of many books in the areas cultural psychology, psychological anthropology and comparative human development, including Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self and EmotionCultural Psychology: Essays on Comparative Human DevelopmentMetatheory in Social Science: Pluralisms and SubjectivitiesEthnography and Human Development: Meaning and Context in Social InquiryWelcome to Middle Age! (And Other Cultural Fictions); Engaging Cultural Differences: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies; Clifford Geertz By His Colleagues; and Just Schools: Pursuing Equality in Societies of Difference. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the recently published reference work on diversity in child and adolescent development titled The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion (University of Chicago Press).

Professor Shweder has been a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1985-86) and was selected as a Carnegie Scholar (2002). He is the recipient of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Socio-Psychological Prize for his essay “Does the Concept of the Person Vary Cross-Culturally?” He has twice been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto (1985-86 and 1995-96), where he has co-chaired a special project on “Culture, Mind and Biology.” He has been a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (1990-91). He has been a Hewlett Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University Research Institute for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (2003-2004) and a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University Hoover Institution (Spring 2005 and Spring 2006). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development (MICMAC). He has served as President of the Society for Psychological Anthropology and has served as co-chair for a joint Social Science Research Council/Russell Sage Foundation Working Group on “Law and Culture” (previously named “Ethnic Customs, Assimilation and American Law”), which is concerned with the issue of the “Free Exercise of Culture: How Free Is It? How Free Ought It To Be?” For the past forty years Professor Shweder has been conducting research in cultural psychology on moral reasoning, emotional functioning, gender roles, explanations of illness, ideas about the causes suffering, and the moral foundations of family life practices in the Hindu temple town of Bhubaneswar on the East Coast of India. During the 1999-2000 academic year he was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (The Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin) where he co-edited an issue of the journal Daedalus (Autumn 2000) titled The End of Tolerance: Engaging Cultural Differences.

His recent research examines the scopes and limits of pluralism and the multicultural challenge in Western liberal democracies. He examines the norm conflicts that arise when people migrate from Africa, Asia and Latin America to countries in the “North”. They bring with them culturally endorsed practices (e.g., arranged marriage, animal sacrifice, circumcision of both girls and boys, ideas about parental authority) that mainstream populations in the United States or Western Europe sometimes find aberrant and disturbing. How much accommodation to cultural diversity occurs and ought to occur under such circumstances? He has co-edited two books on this topic (with Martha Minow and Hazel Markus) (published June 2002 and April 2008) entitled Engaging Cultural Differences: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies and Just Schools: Pursuing Equality in Societies of Difference (Russell Sage Foundation Press 2008). He is currently writing a book provisionally titled Customs Control: Un-American Activities and The Moral Challenge in Cultural Migration. During the 2008-2009 academic year he was a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In 2014 he delivered the Philomathia Lectures on Human Values hosted by the Research Centre for Human Values at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on the topic "The Cultural Psychology of Moral Thinking."

In 2016 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Psychological Anthropology.

Dr. Ahmadu on Fox News
- Dr. Ahmadu’s blog
Richard Shweder’s paper – “What about ‘Female Genital Mutilation?’ And Why Understanding Culture Matters in the First Place” - which served as initial inspiration for HUMAN RITES
Richard Shweder’s Interview of Fuambai Sia Ahmadu – “Disputing the myth of the sexual dysfunction of circumcised women” 
- Shweder, Richard A. (2016) "Equality Now in Genital Reshaping: Brian Earp's Search for Moral Consistency", Kennedy Ethics Institute Journal, forthcoming June issue

Other resources in this important debate: 
Information on anti-FGC activist Nawal al Saadawi