The IES Migration & Diversity Speaker Series: Phil Triadafilopoulos

January 12, 2018
Phil Triadafilopoulos, University of Toronto

Title of Talk: “Religious Groups, Liberal-Democratic States, and Competitive Boundary Making: The Debate Over Ritual Male Circumcision in Germany”

Debates over religious accommodation in liberal-democratic states are increasingly common. I offer a framework for making sense of their often-abrupt eruption, unpredictable dynamics, and variation across jurisdictions, arguing that an important sub-category of these cases are best understood as instances of competitive group boundary construction and maintenance. Religious believers’ interest in honouring their group’s customs is not only based on individual devotion but also reflects their interest in maintaining a sense of coherent religious group identity. Liberal-democratic societies simultaneously create liberal-democratic subjects, through public schooling and other means, including immigrant integration policies. These parallel processes of group formation typically proceed without incident but can intersect, sparking conflict. I outline the social mechanisms that generate conflict, illustrating my argument through reference to the debate over ritual male circumcision in Germany.

Buchanan Penthouse