The judicial politics of ‘burqa bans’ in Belgium and Spain – Socio-legal field dynamics and the standardization of justificatory repertoires

by Marian Burchardt (mpi-mmg), Zeynep Yanasmayan (MPI for Social Anthropology), Matthias Koenig (University of Goettingen)

Working Papers WP 17-10
October 2017
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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Over the past decade, controversies over Islamic face veiling have become increasingly widespread in societies across Europe. This article comparatively explores the socio-legal dynamics of claims-making by proponents and opponents of prohibiting full-face coverings in Belgium and Spain. In Belgium, a federal ban of full-face coverings was adopted in July 2011 and, after intensive judicial struggles,  received judicial validation by the Constitutional Court in 2012. In Spain, local burqa controversies led to municipal bans in the region of Catalonia in 2010, which were annulled by the Supreme Court in 2013 after effective legal counter-mobilizations. Our key argument is that, the diverging legal outcomes notwithstanding, as burqa controversies are transposed from locally embedded political fields to transnationally situated judicial fields the justificatory repertoires employed are increasingly standardized. It is this standardization of justificatory repertoires that, in the long run, has facilitated the rapid spread of ‘burqa bans’.


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