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This is the first episode in the new monthly ACES conversation series 'Racism & Law in Europe' with Ratna Kapur. The series aims to offer a space for academic and practise-oriented reflections on how law is implicated in racializing subjects in today’s Europe. Ratna Kapur is the first guest in the series and will discuss the Politics of the Veil in relation to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

Event details of "Belief" in Rights, Islamophobia and the Politics of the Veil
Date 22 September 2021
Time 16:00 -17:00

The tension between human rights and gender difference has played out explicitly of the past two decades in the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the veil. Ratna Kapur discusses the politics of the veil that inform these decisions and the fear and anxiety over alternative world views and ways of being that are exposed by them. She argues that the case law of the European Court of Human Rights reveals not only how secular rights are steeped in religion, but also how interventions on gender equality can perpetuate Islamophobia.

About the speaker

Ratna Kapur is a Professor of International Law at Queen Mary University. She has written extensively on issues of human rights, with a specific focus on women’s rights, the rights of migrants, sex workers, and religious minorities. She has also written about various aspects of Indian Constitutional law, in particular, the politics of secularism, the right to religious freedom, and equality. Her current research interest is on developing a critique of freedom in human rights law and exploring other non-liberal emancipatory possibilities.

Her most recent publications include:

  • Gender, Alterity and Human Rights: Freedom in a Fishbowl. Edward Elgar, 2018.
  • Secularism's Others: The Legal Regulation of Religion and Hierarchy of Citizenship." In Handbook on Constitutions and Religions, edited by Susanna Mancini, 41-58: Edward Elgar, 2019.
  • "Gender and `Faith’ in Law: Equality, Secularism, and Rise of the Hindu Nation." Journal of Law and Religion 35, no. 3 (2020): 407-31.

About the series


The Black Lives Matter protests across European cities opened up a wider public discussion on racism and racial discrimination in Europe. One issue prominently raised, was that of the role of law in Europe in justifying, enabling, or even constituting racialized violence. Yet, despite the ubiquity of the concept of racial discrimination in European laws, as a conceptual category of critical inquiry, race is conspicuously absent in much of the European legal discourse. This is surprising, given the long legacies and continued persistence of racist ideologies in e.g., labour, immigration, family, and citizenship law.

The monthly ACES conversation series Racism and Law in Europe aims to offer a space for academic and practise-oriented reflections on how law is implicated in racializing subjects in today’s Europe. The series will also discuss law’s potential in responding to racial discrimination, or even reversing structural racism. 

The conversation series will be held online and invites the audience to think along, and engage with our speakers’ methodological and theoretical approaches. The series will use the zoom seminar format to invite audience participation. Contingent on each speaker’s permission, the initial intervention and the conversation will be recorded and publicized. 

The series is hosted and organised by Lys Kulamadayil & Stefan Salomon