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Marian Burchardt

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On a global scale, the politics around the recognition of same-sex relationships has turned into legal controversies while opposition to it is often framed in religious terms. This article takes the case of Christian mobilization around the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in South Africa to investigate the intertwinement of religious and sexual rights struggles. Linking the anthropology of law, the sociolegal literature on judicialization, and studies of public religion, it argues that both same-sex activism and religious mobilization should be understood in terms of judicial politics. The article analyses religious responses to lesbian and gay judicial activism and presents a typology that reveals the structured diversity of these responses in terms of public discourse, political strategy, and legal argument. Two dimensions are key to conceptualizing these responses: religious communities’ ontological concepts of the world, including ideas about human agency and God, and their relationships to the world, construed in terms of political habitus.

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Marian Burchardt

Abstract

Legal anthropologists and sociologists of religion increasingly recognize the importance of law in current controversies over religious diversity. Drawing on the case of South Africa, this chapter explores how such controversies are shaped by contestations over what counts as ‘religion’. Analyzing the historical context and emergent forms of institutional secularity from which contemporary contestations over religious diversity draw, the chapter explores debates and practices of classification around religion, tradition, and culture, and the ways in which these domains are co-constituted through their claims on the law: on the one hand through an analysis of religion-related jurisprudence; on the other hand through an examination of the debates on witchcraft, law, and religion. I argue that the production of judicial knowledge of ‘religion’, ‘culture’, and ‘tradition’ is tied up with contestations over the power to define the meaning of the domains. In fact, contrary to notions of constitutionality in which rights seem to exist prior to the claims made on their basis, in a fundamental sense rights struggles help to constitute the contemporary human rights dispensation. Against the Comaroffs’ claim that judicialization depoliticizes power struggles, I show that legal claims making remains vibrantly political.

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Marian Burchardt

Abstract

Legal anthropologists and sociologists of religion increasingly recognize the importance of law in current controversies over religious diversity. Drawing on the case of South Africa, this article explores how such controversies are shaped by contestations over what counts as ‘religion’. Analyzing the historical context and emergent forms of institutional secularity from which contemporary contestations over religious diversity draw, the article explores debates and practices of classification around religion, tradition, and culture, and the ways in which these domains are co-constituted through their claims on the law: on the one hand through an analysis of religion-related jurisprudence; on the other hand through an examination of the debates on witchcraft, law, and religion. I argue that the production of judicial knowledge of ‘religion’, ‘culture’, and ‘tradition’ is tied up with contestations over the power to define the meaning of the domains. In fact, contrary to notions of constitutionality in which rights seem to exist prior to the claims made on their basis, in a fundamental sense rights struggles help to constitute the contemporary human rights dispensation. Against the Comaroffs’ claim that judicialization depoliticizes power struggles, I show that legal claims making remains vibrantly political.