Article of the month: Time to cut it out?

Like the headscarf debate, the controversy around the ruling by a German court that circumcision counts as physical injury typifies conflicting perceptions of the position of religion in secular society. Claims that a circumcision ban will protect the rights of Jewish and Muslim children clash with the defence of religious and cultural freedom. But both positions are liable to subversion: latent antisemitism and intolerance of religion among prohibitionists, exceptionalism and culturally sanctioned backwardness among traditionalists.

In New Humanist, Toby Lichtig writes in wry mode about how, in his own secular Jewish family, the circumcision issue pits tradition against reason. Both his sisters had their sons undergo the Brit milah, should he get his own baby boy "snipped"?

"There is an implication in the air, above the urge for tribal markings, filial genital sympathy, the hallowed aesthetics of the Jewish penis. The implication is a question: Did we do something wrong? My rejection is interpreted as an accusation. If I don't want my son circumcised, what does this say about the decision of my mother, and my sisters, to carry out the infant surgery on theirs? Surgery? Now he's calling it a surgery! Never underestimate the power of guilt in the Jewish mother."

However there's more at stake than culture. As Lichtig writes, circumcision can be extremely dangerous. After all, the Cologne ruling responded to malpractice charges brought against a doctor after complications following the circumcision of a Muslim boy. While this and other cases reach the courts, the number that go uninvestigated are certainly far higher:

"For certain hospitals in Britain, the practice of patching up circumcision botch jobs is said to be appallingly routine. Largely, these interventions go unrecorded. The infant is simply stitched up and sent home. The perpetrator is not reported. Censure is not issued. Cultural sensitivity trumps child protection. One wonders if, say, the parents of a newborn suffering from skin lesions following a clumsily administered home tattoo would get off the hook so lightly."

Toby Lichtig
Circumcision: Time to cut it out?

This article is available in English

Eurozine conference 2012

The 24th European Meeting of Cultural Journals will take place in Hamburg from 14 to 16 September 2012. This year's meeting is organized by Eurozine in cooperation with the Hamburg Institute for Social Research and the journal Mittelweg 36.

Gateways to the world or fortress Europe? Attached to harbour cities are all sorts of contradictory metaphors that appear both to encourage movement and to restrict it. Under the heading "Arrivals/Departures. European harbour cities as places of migration", the conference will explore how European societies deal variously with the cultural legacy of the "harbour city".

In an accompanying focal point, Olivier Mongin tracks the new geography of containerization; Anthony Iles scrutinizes Olympic London's relationship to the water; Franco Bianchini and Jude Bloomfield profile four "porous" European ports; and Marcus Rediker discusses European harbour cities and the legacy of slavery.

More about the Eurozine conference 2012, including programme and thematic outline

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New articles

Toby Lichtig
Circumcision: Time to cut it out?
The controversy around the German circumcision ruling once again reveals conflicting perceptions of the position of religion in secular society. Toby Lichtig asks whether male circumcision is a harmless ethnic signifier or the infliction of genuine harm.

This article is available in English

James Robertson
Future money
A conversation with James Robertson
Understanding the need to combine economics and ethics amounts to a "Copernican revolution", says the co-founder of the New Economics Foundation. The survival of our species depends on our making the money system work in ways that will "enable and conserve".

This article is available in English

Valeriu Nicolae
Romania: Why corruption will last
The presidential referendum controversy represents an all-time low for post-communist Romanian politics, writes Valeriu Nicolae. Corruption isn't likely to disappear any time soon, since an honest political elite working to reform society would lead to a collapse of the entire system.

This article is available in English

Rein Müllerson
From democratic peace theory to forcible regime change
The revival of neo-Kantian theories of universal peace has led to intellectual justification of foreign "interventions" whose results have nothing to do with democracy. Evidence suggests that democracy does not precede peace but vice versa, writes Rein Müllerson. [more]

This article is available in English

Helmut König
Federal Germany -- A philosophical history
Dividing philosophical currents in post-war West Germany along generation lines, Helmut König illustrates the transition from hermeneutics to ideology-critique through two forgotten scholars, illuminating the broader intellectual public sphere and the role of university politics.

This article is available in German

Claus Leggewie, Horst Meier
Why the EU's "harmonization machine" should stay away from history
Memory laws are the wrong way for Europeans to remember and debate their difficult pasts, argues Claus Leggewie and Horst Meier. Europe needs a pluralism of memory policies. That is why 23 August is a good candidate for a truly pan-European day of remembrance. [more]

This article is available in English and German

Ales Debeljak
In praise of hybridity
Cultural globalization is not the transplantation of western ideas and technologies across the planet, but the adaptation of these according to local requirements, writes Ales Debeljak. Hybridity, the product of a longue durée, is at the heart of the western paradigm.

This article is now available in Albanian, English, Hungarian and Slowenian

Marina Akhmedova
Snap goes the crocodile
Marina Akhmedova spent four days in the company of drug users in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and was met with a picture of desperation, punctured by love, humanity and misplaced hope. Shortly after it was published, this harrowing piece of reportage journalism was banned in Russia.

This article is available in English

Ivaylo Ditchev
Mobile citizenship?
The "new mobility" implies new freedoms as well as new privations. The biographies of Bulgarian migrants reveal how the horizon of departure has become a basic dimension of the world. Mobility, writes Ivaylo Ditchev, will need to be taken more seriously in the anthropology of citizenship.

This article is now available in Albanian, Bulgarian, English and Lithuanian

Ernest Gellner
Religion and the profane
"The difference between the success of Islam and the failure of Marxism is that [...] Islam never claimed that work is sacred." Ernest Gellner, speaking in 1995, draws surprising comparisons between Marxism and Islam.

This article is now available in Albanian, English, German and Italian

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Eurozine Newsletter: 09/2012