Behind the Circumcision: Kinship, Gender and Religion in the Life Stories of Mixed Couples with an Arab-Muslim Partner

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 13:30
Oral Presentation
Francesco CERCHIARO, University of KU Leuven, Belgium
Laura ODASSO, Aix-Marseille Univ, CNRS, Laboratoire Méditerranéen de Sociologie LAMES & Temps, Espaces, Langages, Europe Méridionale - Méditerranée TELEMMe, Labexmed, France
Based on the life stories of mixed-status couples formed by an indigenous partner and a partner from majority Muslim countries in Italy and in France, the paper explores the meanings of circumcision and its social implications in a context that still stigmatises these kinds of couples. For them, the choice of circumcision is often controversial, as it causes tensions between the spouses and conflicts with the enlarged families, involving gender, generational, religious and cultural issues. In Islam, male children’s circumcision is not a religious precept in the strict sense, but rather a "recommendation" by Prophet Muhammad. Nevertheless, this practice is traditionally rooted and remains one of the most common within Muslim communities (and not only) all over the world. As circumcision represents a rite of passage symbolising the public entrance in the Muslim community and in the male adult society, the practice does not represent only a religious belief for believers. Its investigation highlights the imbrications of religion, culture and social inclusion/exclusion and renews questions about “body” and “visibility/invisibility” in the contemporary debate on Islam, permitting to fulfil the gendered lacuna in the literature. In fact, while a great amount of researches has focused on women body and their visibility in the public space through issues such as the wearing of the veil, the question of the male body still remains underexplored. Accounting for these gendered and kinship questions, the choices concerning circumcision in mixed families are discussed in relationship with the gendered-educational partners/parents approach to the practice, the attitudes of the partners’ families of origin, and the hegemonic social context of residence.