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Circumcision as a Human Rights Issue

A Panel Discussion



  • Robin Judd
  • Thomas Schmidt
  • Bettina Shell-Duncan


  • Michael Rosenthal


Is Circumcision a violation of the human right to bodily integrity?  Or is it protected under the human right that guarantees freedom liberty of religion?  Is it primarily a medical or is it a cultural practice?  Recent events have brought these issues into the news.  In Germany last year an appellate court criminalized the non-medical circumcision of children.  In Africa the World Health Organization now advocates a policy of medical male circumcision in order to prevent the spread of HIV, at the same time as it works to stop female genital cutting.  In 2011 a proposal to ban male circumcision was placed on the ballot in San Francisco.  What is new about these current debates and what can we learn from the past?  The panel of experts will approach current controversies from three different disciplines—anthropology, history, and philosophy—to start an informed conversation.  Please join us.


Participant Bios

Robin Judd is an associate Professor of History at Ohio State University.  She is the author of Contested Rituals: Circumcision, Kosher Butchering, and German-Jewish Political Life in Germany, 1843-1933, published by Cornell University Press.

Thomas Schmidt is Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany. He is the editor of the forthcoming Religion and Secularization:  An Interdisciplinary Guide [in German], published by J. B. Metzler Verlag.

Bettina Shell Duncan is Professor of Anthropology and Adjunct Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington.  She is the co-editor of Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context, published by Rutgers University Press.

Michael Rosenthal is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Washington.


Main Sponsors

Stroum Jewish Studies Program

Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities



Department of Philosophy