Markus Klank
Markus Klank
Ph.D Candidate
Phone: +49 (0) 345 29 27 342

Markus Klank

Research Interests
Religion and law, religion and body, religious minorities and minority rights, religious freedom, religious plurality, cultural diversity and questions of cultural identity, religious non-conformism, theories of religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses

Research Area(s)
Europe (esp. Germany)


Markus Klank holds an MA in Religious Studies and a BA in History (both from the University of Leipzig). In his MA thesis he examined the problem of state neutrality concerning religion and ideology in light of religious pluralization in Germany, with a particular focus on the differences between legislative power and jurisdiction.

His doctoral project deals with the legal autonomy of religious groups in Germany, particularly in regard to their attempts to gain the status of Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts (state-recognized public body). Using the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany as a springboard, Klank aims to determine if the state and the concerned religions go through a transformation process, and if so, what this entails. His research interests also include the general question of the legal problems and obstacles Jehovah’s Witnesses face in their efforts to enjoy religious freedom, and how they act within the legal framework. Furthermore, Klank is interested in the relationship between the autonomy of the group and the autonomy of the individual (and the challenges that relationship poses), as well as in the interplay of religious pluralization and religious ‘individualization’ (the increasingly predominant focus on the individual in religious belief and practice).

Why Law and Anthropology?

"The so-called ‘return of religion’ that has generated so much controversy at the threshold of the twenty-first century is strongly connected to the fact that an increasing number of non-established religious groups and religious minorities in Germany (as well as in other countries) try to claim the same rights as the established churches. One of the main challenges of contemporary religious studies is to examine this process and its effects on religions, law, and society in general, and to combine such analyses with recent discussions on secularism, religious diversification, and religious freedom. However, religious studies has thus far made very little use of approaches from legal anthropology, despite the fact that they have great potential to help understand the relationship between groups and individuals and their positioning in (legal) cultures. Processes of adaption, assimilation, and defense − in other words, cultural dynamics within groups as reactions to the legal cultural conditions of the social environment – are particularly amenable to legal anthropological approaches. For this reason I try to combine research questions from religious studies with methods and approaches from legal anthropology to analyse the complex reactions of religious groups to changes in their legal environment."

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