Encounters between strangers: the German debate over male circumcision

Illustration of circumcision ritual from Juedisches Ceremoniel, a German book published in Nürnberg in 1724 by Peter Conrad Monath.

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Thursday 09 March 2017


Seminar Room 1.13, Coombs Extension Building (8), Fellows Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Mareike Riedel


+61 (0)2 6125 3948

In early 2012, a German regional court decided that the circumcision of a boy for non-medical reasons could not be justified by the consent of the parents because it was not in the best interest of the child. The tradition of male circumcision is almost universally practiced amongst Jews all around the world. A ban on circumcision would have touched upon a central tenet of Jewish identity. Even though the German parliament in response hastily drafted a law affirming the legality of male circumcision, the heated public debate about the ritual created a renewed feeling of estrangement between Jews and the non-Jewish majority.

Drawing on legal pluralism and Zygmunt Bauman’s writing on “the stranger”, Mareike’s thesis explores moments when Jewish religious practice comes into conflict with state law. In this mid-term review seminar Mareike will discuss the case of male circumcision in Germany. She suggests focussing on the perceptions of strangeness and difference in order to better understand the dynamics of identity and belonging that often underlie contemporary conflicts between law and religion.

About the Speaker

Mareike Riedel was a member of the Law & Anthropology Department at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany before joining RegNet. She studied law, linguistics, literature and journalism in Leipzig, Lyon and Jerusalem with a focus on legal history, human rights, and interdisciplinary research in law. Mareike’s PhD research is concerned with the impact of identity discourses and politics on the protection and regulation of religious minorities.

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet