An uneasy encounter: male circumcision, Jewish difference, and German law

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Abstract

The religious tradition of male circumcision has come increasingly under attack across a number of European states. While critics of the practice argue that the problem is about children’s rights and the proper relationship between secular and religious traditions, Jews tend to see these attacks within the longer history of attempts to assimilate and remake them according to the norms of the majority. Using the 2012 German legal controversy concerning the issue as my vantage point, I explore how contemporary criticism of male circumcision remains entangled with ambivalence toward Judaism and the Jews as the “other.” Through a close reading of the arguments, I show how opponents use the seemingly neutral language of universal human rights to (re)make Jewish difference according to the norms of the majority. I conclude by arguing that such an approach to this issue runs the risk of turning Jews once again into strangers at a time when cultural anxieties are troubling European societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-84
Number of pages30
JournalStudies in Law Politics and Society
Volume79
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Antisemitism
  • Freedom of religion
  • German Law
  • Judaism
  • Law and religion
  • Male circumcision
  • Secularism

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