Bodies speak louder than words

Norwegian Jewish parents reflecting on brit milah



brit milah, circumcision, Norwegian Jews, Identity, Costly signal


This article addresses the question: how do Norwegian Jewish parents reflect on brit milah (circumcision) in a context where this practice is frequently criticised? The data are derived from twenty-five in-depth interviews. Drawing on the perspectives of Catherine Bell and Joseph Bulbulia, the text explores circumcision as part of social life. The parental narratives uncover ongoing negotiations occurring between parents and the minority/majority population. The article argues that circumcision serves as a rite of passage as much for parents as for the infant. For most parents, circumcision is utilised to strengthen a Jewish identity and as a cultural strategy to recreate a Jewish cosmos, even if it entails a costly signal, owing to ambivalence and/or majority opposition. Some individuals find the costs too high and discontinue the practice. However, they all desire to manifest Jewish identity, whether through bodily adaptation or the lack thereof. In this manner, bodies speak louder than words.




How to Cite

Stene, N. (2023). Bodies speak louder than words: Norwegian Jewish parents reflecting on brit milah. Nordisk judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies, 34(2), 4–20.