Meeting Einstein: Michael Karayanni

Multiculturalism under pressure: Between group identity, individual rights and civic unity

Keynote by and discussion with Michael Karayanni, Professor of Law and Director of the Center of the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Should minority languages like “Sorbian” be supported? To what extent should cultural-religious clothing be permitted to wear? What about home-schooling children, male circumcision or the ritual slaughter of animals? Self-determination, autonomy, affirmative action, representation quotas, exemptions from certain duties or state recognition of language are common calls in many countries. These calls are frequently met with resistance by governing entities, thereby giving rise to tensions, clashes or even civil wars.

A more and more globalized world and increasing migration challenge nation states, which are in general constitutionally biased in favour of one group. The normative theory of multiculturalism is thus often perceived as a proper response to cultural and religious diversity. Individuals should be entitled to certain rights based on their particular group identity – be it ethnic, religious, racial, cultural or lingual. This is especially the case when these groups are of minority status.

Protecting minorities seems essential for an inclusive democracy. The open question is how to find the right balance between group identity, individual rights and civic unity. Michael Karayanni, an internationally renowned legal scholar, will discuss different approaches and examples of multiculturalism.

Michael Karayanni

Michael Karayanni holds the Bruce W. Wayne Chair in international law and serves as Academic Director of the Center of the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Karayanni held visiting positions at Georgetown Law Center, Melbourne Law School, Stanford Law School, Yale Law School and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His research interests are in private international law and interreligious law, multiculturalism and civil procedure. Michael Karayanni belongs to the core faculty at “Human Rights under Pressure”.

Human Rights under Pressure

“Human Rights under Pressure – Ethics, Law, and Politics” is an international, interdisciplinary doctoral and post-doctoral study and research training group under the joint auspices of Freie Universität Berlin and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is funded by the Einstein Foundation Berlin and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and unites world-class researchers and supervisors in various disciplines relating to human rights at both universities and the partner institutions.

Jeffrey Peck, an international scholar and expert on diversity and minority identities, will act as moderator and discussant for the evening. Peck was Dean of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences and Vice Provost for Global Strategies at Baruch College in New York (CUNY). Previous to New York, he was a Fulbright Professor and holder of the Walter Benjamin Chair in German Jewish History and Culture at HU Berlin.