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Mediterranean Reconfigurations

Intercultural Trade, Commercial Litigation, and Legal Pluralism

The book series Mediterranean Reconfigurations is devoted to the analyses of historical change in the Mediterranean over a long period (15th - 19th centuries), challenging totalizing narratives that “Westernize” Mediterranean history as having led naturally to European domination in the 19th and 20th centuries. In reality, the encounters of Muslim, Jewish, Armenian and Protestant merchants and sailors with legal customs and judicial practices different from their own gave rise to legal and cultural creativity throughout the Mediterranean. Through the prism of commercial litigation, the series thus offers a more accurate and deeper understanding of the practices of intercultural trade, in a context profoundly shaped by legal pluralism and multiple and overlapping spaces of jurisdiction. Comparative case studies offer empirically-based indicators for both regional and more general processes, here called "Mediterranean reconfigurations", e.g. the changing interplay and positioning of individual and institutional actors on different levels in a variety of commercial and legal contexts.

Balaniyot, Baths and Beyond

Israel’s State-Run Ritual Baths and the Rights of Women

Nahshon Perez and Elisheva Rosman-Stollman

Ritual immersion in Israel has become a major point of contention between Israeli-Jewish women and the state-funded Chief Rabbinate of Israel. In order to conduct a religious household, Orthodox Jewish women are required to immerse in a ritual bath (mikveh) approximately once a month. However, in Israel, these are strictly regulated and managed by the Chief Rabbinate, which habitually interferes with women’s autonomy when immersing. The article presents the case, then moves to discuss two models of religion-state relations: privatization and evenhandedness (roughly the modern version of nonpreferentialism), as two democratic models that can be adopted by the state in order to properly manage religious services, ritual baths included. The discussion also delineates the general lessons that can be learned from this contextual exploration, pointing to the advantages of the privatization model, and to the complexities involved in any evenhanded approach beyond the specific case at hand.

Mikhail Antonov

This paper analyzes the cultural constraints imposed in the Russian legal system by the prevailing social philosophy, which is characterized by a significant degree of religious conservatism and communitarianism. This conservatism is predictably opposed to sexual minorities and to those who want to defend or justify them. The author concludes that this philosophy strongly affects decision-making in Russian courts, and can sometimes overrule the provisions of the Russian Constitution and the laws that formally grant protection to sexual minorities. In turn, this conservative social philosophy and communitarian morality are based on religious patterns that are still shaping the mindsets and attitudes of Russians. These attitudes cannot be ignored by judges and other actors in the Russian legal system, who to some extent are subject to the general perception of what is just, acceptable, and reasonable in society, and are factually bound by this perception.

Anicée Van Engeland

According to some interpretations of Islam supported by gender activists, the veil can be perceived as a passport that enables women to participate in public affairs. This argument has been overlooked by the courts, including the European Court of Human Rights. The latter has adopted a discourse that considers the veil to be a threat to public order and gender equality, and more recently, an obstacle to social cohesion. By doing so, the Court has excluded veiled European Muslim women from the public sphere. The Court has justified curbing freedom of religion by granting states a wide margin of appreciation on the basis of the concept of “living together.” I argue that the Court needs to take the “passport veil” into account to be consistent with its argument on living together. A shift of approach and discourse would constitute a new way of understanding integration through the veil.

Honest Scales

Challenging Structural Discrimination in Alberta v. Hutterite Brethren of Wilson Colony

William Kenny

The decision in Alberta and Hutterite Brethren of Wilson Colony refocused attention on the role played by the final limb of the Oakes test when considering the proportionality of the limitation of a Charter right. This article seeks to re-examine this decision and challenge the structural discrimination it created by requiring minorities whose belief gives a religious value to a facially utilitarian practice which may not be apparent when considered from a secular perspective. In particular it examines the potential benefits of allowing a liberal perspective of group rights to inform the weight courts’ give to the detriment faced by a community and argues that this revised approach to balancing would result in outcomes more reflective of the values codified in the Charter.

The Legal Status of Religious Groups in Argentina

Toward a Multi-Confessional System

Fernando Arlettaz

The Argentinian Constitution of 1853 established a religious policy based on two main principles: freedom of religion and the privileged status of the Catholic Church. In 1966, an agreement with the Catholic Church eliminated the power of the government to interfere in ecclesiastical matters, but maintained the privileged status of Catholicism. Today, the religious configuration of Argentinian society differs greatly from that of the 19th century. Amidst increasing religious diversity, some legal changes point to the transformation of the Argentinian regime from a nearly confessional state into a multi-confessional, yet not an egalitarian one.

Bridging the Digital Divide through Korea Cooperation

The Case of Ghana-Korea Information Access Centre ( IAC )

Augustine Blay Arko, Barfi-Adomako Owusu and Gladys Kwadzo


The purpose of this paper is review the objectives and functions for which the Ghana-Korea Information Access Center (IAC) was set-up at the University of Ghana, Legon in 2012. This type of facility is one of the very few established in Ghana to bridge the digital divide through Ghana-Korea co-operation. Sharing information on its status and development will throw important light on a key Ghana-Korea Project in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, provide critical guidance for the development of future centres and lay the the basis for exploring possibilities for co-operation in ICT between the the two countries. The paper draws its data from interviews (involving users of the IAC) and documented information on the project. The paper traces the developmental processes (physical, institutional and administrative) for the setting up of the IAC and points up the lessons learnt.

Jasper Abembia Ayelazunoa and Lord Mawuko-Yevugahb


In the 1960s, the economic development of African countries such as Ghana was on par with Asian countries like South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia. Fast forward to the 2000s and a totally different picture emerges: Ghana lagged far behind its Asian counterparts in most development indicators, something that exemplifies the broader case of postcolonial African states unpropitious of development. Paradoxically, a new intellectual fad has emerged in the 2000s claiming ‘Africa is rising’, potentially, to replicate the development model of the Asian tigers. This discourse is based mostly on spurts of economic growth of African countries rich in natural resources like oil and gold, a growth driven by a spike in world market prices of these commodities in the second decade of the 21st century. When the world prices of these commodities plummeted precipitously a few years later, countries like Ghana, cited as signal examples of the ‘Africa rising’ mantra, went into deep economic crises. The IMF had to bail them out. Meanwhile, despite the global economic downturn, Ghana’s Asian counterparts managed to muddle through, still far ahead of it in most indicators of development. In contrast to the Africa Rising discourses, this paper draws on the insights of critical international political economy to leverage our understanding of the contrasting development paths African states and their Asian counterparts have taken in the immediate postcolonial period; and more recently, the period following immediately after the global economic downtown. Despite its weaknesses, indeed, despite the refutation of its cruder claims, we argue that dependency theory is still rich with useful analytical insights that can unravel the African development paradox in the 21st century vis-à-vis the development miracle of the Asian tigers.