Secularism, Nationalism and Human Rights: Law and Politics in the Middle East and Europe
December 20-21, 2009
Secularism as the separation between religion and politics, nationalism as the ethnic premise of the modern state, and human rights, are commonly identified as fundamental attributes of modern law and politics. And yet these foundational ideals are neither global nor even on the whole "Western". They have their origins in specific European traditions, and they continue to play diverse and multiple roles in Europe and in the Middle East. The conference seeks to examine the influence of these legacies on the formation of law and legal institutions in Europe and the Middle East and in the different contexts in which Europe and the Middle East intersect, primarily in Israel.
Among the questions the conference will address are:
" How have secularism, nationalism and human rights shaped law and
legal institutions in Europe and the Middle East? What are the different, conflicting and complimentary meanings given to these notions across and within legal jurisdictions? To what extent are these legacies distinctly European and thus differ even from other Western traditions, such as the United States, where secularism, nationalism, and human rights seem to have a very different significance?
" How and under what conditions have these traditions been
implemented, resisted, subverted, and transformed in Israel, Palestine, and more generally in the Middle East? Conversely, how has Europe's recent encounter with the Middle East, primarily through labor immigration, shaped and reshaped the formation of these ideals? What roles have law and legal institutions played in the dissemination, transformation, and enforcement of these legacies?
" How have these legacies affected differently diverse groups within
European and non-European societies, including ethnic and religious minorities and other potentially disadvantaged groups? In what ways do these ideas mirror power relations and how do the legal institutions in their service shape images and practices of gender, class and ethnicity?
" To what extent can and should the specifically European version of
these ideals be accepted outside of Europe? Can human rights be the legal and moral grounds, from which nationalism and secularism be valued, or does the category of human rights itself suffer from euro-centrism? Do better models exist elsewhere and what would be the conditions for local traditions to emerge?
" Finally, are nationalism, secularism and human rights at all
relevant categories for analyzing what has often been described as a growingly post-nationalist, post-secularist and post-human world?
Authors from all disciplines (including law, sociology, anthropology, history, political science, religious studies, and philosophy) are strongly encouraged to submit papers on topics relevant to the above themes. Papers on other themes will also be considered, but due to the limited number of presentations this year we will not be able to accept all submissions.
Prof. Menachem Hofnung
Department of Political Science
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Tel: Office :972-2-588-3164