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Only Skin Deep: Revising the Secular Narrative through Circumcision

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses the question why male circumcision (MC) has been narrated as a bodily practice in ways that are different from female circumcision. Employing the recent German case on circumcision as the gateway to a broader transnational discussion, it posits that MC has been constructed as part and parcel of contemporary dominant secular narratives found within the particular context of North America and Western Europe, where it is framed as an accepted form of religious freedom. MC can be understood as generally falling under one of two camps: therapeutic circumcision and non-therapeutic circumcision. The chapter draws a theoretical framework that looks at how secular narratives can influence the way religious freedom is constructed. In many of the reactions to the Cologne ruling, religious freedom is mobilized to question attempts to challenge MC. The chapter examines how arguments on secularism can reveal issues that are further than "only skin deep".

Keywords: Cologne ruling; female circumcision; German case; male circumcision (MC); religious freedom; secular narratives



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