Course Description: 

Circumcision, in a variety of forms, has been a widespread practice across societies. Widespread, and widely contested, from antiquity to the present day. This course will discuss primarily male circumcision. It has rich history, occurring in Ancient Egypt, Judaism, Islam, the modern world, and elsewhere. It has been the focus of ideas about sexuality, involving ideas of repression and control, but also of enhancement. Its justification has referred to medical ideas of hygiene, infection and disease, which have contributed to its spread in the modern, secular world. Yet it has also been seen as a barbaric relic of more primitive ages. And it has recently been challenged as being in blatant disagreement with child rights, and some have argued it should be illegalised. All these issues will be considered in this course.

The course will interest students from a variety of disciplines: Gender Studies, History, Jewish Studies, Legal Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Public Policy, Sociology and Social Anthropology, and others. CEU experts and external ones will present the different topics and discuss them.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course students will acquire a good acquaintance with the history of circumcision, with the controversies that have surrounded it, with the current attitudes towards it around the world, and with the current debates around its legal and human rights status. Moreover, through this case study, students will acquire acquaintance with the complexity characteristic of deeply rooted social practices with a long history, the difficulty of their assessment or revision, and the variety of perspectives such practices usually involve. 


Term paper of up to 2500 words. Students should consult the course instructors about the paper’s subject. Participation in class can contribute up to plus one grade (from B to B+ etc.) to the final grade.  



Additional Activities:
The seminar will be accompanied by several events in which we shall screen documentaries exploring different aspects of circumcision, followed by a discussion.

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