Shai Lavi is a professor of law at Tel Aviv University and the director of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. His areas of specialization are sociology of law and legal theory. He engages in historical research of Jews and Muslims in Germany and in comparative research—in Germany, Turkey, and Israel—on issues related to legal regulation of the body and the tension between religion and secularity. He earned his first and second degrees in law and sociology at Tel Aviv University and his doctorate in law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Prof. Lavi has received a Fulbright Fellowship, the Zeltner Prize for young scholars in law, a grant to establish the Minerva Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the End of Life, and a research grant from GIF, the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development, to study bioethics and society in Israel, Turkey, and Germany. His book on the end of life, The Modern Art of Dying: A History of Euthanasia in the United States, won the 2006 Sociology of Law Distinguished Scholarly Book Award of the American Sociological Association. He has been a visiting professor at Cornell University, the University of Toronto, Yeshiva University in New York, and Humboldt University of Berlin.
Humanizing Law, Ritualizing Religion:
Questioning Jewish and Muslim Practices in the Nineteenth Century and Today
Animal slaughter and male circumcision are two practices that Jews and Muslims share, important differences notwithstanding. They are also two practices that since the second half of the nineteenth century became publicly questionable in Germany and other European countries and continue to be a source of moral, legal, and politial controversy today. Moreover, the two practices have played a central role in antisemitc and islamophobic imagery and propoganda portraying Jews and Muslims as inhumane and unsensitive to the suffeirng of helpless creatures, and deeming their practices as having dubious religious origins.
Exploring the history of Jewish and Muslim animal slaughter and circumcision in Germnay since the nineteenht century and to the present, the paper studies an interrleated dual process of humanizing law and ritualizing religion, and its role in antisemitic and islamophobic public discourse and law.