This research is concerned with how 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. Specifically, we will examine the way religion and secularity shape disputes and are shaped by disputes over “body politics,” that is, the laws governing what is permissible to do to the body and who has the authority to decide. Our study focuses on Germany, Israel, and Turkey. All three countries are allegedly secular states with monotheistic religious traditions, but each has its own understanding of the relationship between secularity, religion, and state law. Specifically, the proposed research will focus on current legal controversies that have erupted around the practice of male circumcision, posthumous organ donation, and abortion in Israel, Germany, and Turkey.
In contrast to more conventional studies of the relationship between state and religion, which privilege top-down constitutional analysis, our socio-legal micro-case study of body politics is based on a bottom-up approach. It demonstrates how the tension between secularity and religion rarely maps onto familiar distinctions such as between “passive” and “assertive” secularism (Kuru, 2009) and that secularity in different countries (no less than religion) presupposes a complex set of taken for granted assumptions about the physical body and about bodily authority. Understanding these complex relationships is especially important given significant changes in the role of religion in the public sphere in Germany, Turkey, and Israel and new geo-political dynamics between the Middle East and Europe.