Shai Lavi, Tel Aviv University, Faculty of Law, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics
Gökce Yurdakul, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Berlin Institute of Migration and Integration Research
Conflicts between religion and secularity (i.e., secular and religious discourses, norms, actors, and institutions) are shaped differently in differing socio-legal contexts in the Middle East and Europe. While current scholarship has often studied this tension by focusing on religious rituals (head-scarf, minarets, animal slaughter, etc.), we claim that new light can be shed on the religion/secularity tension by exploring a broader set of examples concerning bodily politics, that is legal contestations over images of the body and authority over the body.
To explore the way secularity and religion shape and are shaped by the legal regulation of body politics we focus on three recent controversies: male circumcision, brain-dead organ donation, and abortion in three different countries Germany, Israel, and Turkey. Our aim is to analyze how in each of these cases and in each of the three countries social actors have struggled to shape state regulation differently. In each of the countries, we will examine state legislation and regulation both on the books and in action. In the focal case studies (circumcision in Germany, organ donation in Israel, abortion in Turkey) we will conduct interviews with the parties involved in shaping the regulation, while in the other cases we will rely on published documents and secondary literature. We will show how contrary to common belief, contestations of authority over the body do not neatly divide between divine and secular authority. Rather, the tension involves different ways of deciding on human authority – individual v. family, mother v. fetus, parents v. child. They take root in different understanding of the body, which cannot be captured by a simple distinction between “scientific” and “transcendental,” in any of the examples to be studied.
In this research project, I explored how Muslim women deal with local and global dynamics by discussing their own sense of belonging in Germany. The project was composed of participant observations and interviews with Muslim women. This findings of this project were used in the book: The Headscarf Debates: Conflicts of Belonging (2014).
In order to understand the process of immigrant integration, while necessary, it is not sufficient to analyze macro structures, such as the political structure of the receiving country and majority-minority relations. It is also extremely useful to explore the kinds of strategies immigrants create in order to incorporate into the new country’s mainstream society, especially with respect to their use of minority groups already established in that country. In this project, I investigated the relations between Jews and Turks in Germany. The outcomes of this research were published in Staatsbürgerschaft, Migration, Minderheiten: Inklusion und Exclusionsstrategien im Vergleich (2010).