Dominik Müller
Dominik Müller
Head of Research Group
Phone: +49 (0) 345 29 27 333

Dominik Müller

Research Interests
Anthropology of the state, Islam and politics, law and social change, nationalism and religion, classificatory/symbolic power; media, popular culture

Research Area(s)
Southeast Asia (especially Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore)


Dominik M. Müller is the Head of the DFG Emmy Noether Junior Research Group ‘The Bureaucratization of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia’, which is based at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle. He is presently (2018) on leave as an "Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change" Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. He also holds a Post-Doctoral Scholarship from the Daimler and Benz Foundation (2018–2019), and a non-resident Visiting Research Fellowship at the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, National University of Singapore (2017-2020). Before joining the MPI, he was a post-doctoral researcher within the Cluster of Excellence ‘Formation of Normative Orders’ at Goethe-University Frankfurt (2012–2016) and a PhD student at the same institute (2008–2012). He studied anthropology, law and philosophy in Frankfurt and Leiden from 2003 to 2008 (M.A. with distinction).

His PhD thesis (summa cum laude) on the rise of pop-Islamism in Malaysia received the Frobenius Society’s Research Award for the best anthropological dissertation submitted at a German University in 2012 and was published by Routledge in 2014 under the title Islam, Politics and Youth in Malaysia: The Pop-Islamist Reinvention of PAS. An article on the same topic received a Commendation from the peer-reviewed journal Indonesia and the Malay World (University of London, SOAS) in its Young Scholar Competition 2014. In 2018, he was awarded the John A. Lent Prize (AAS).

Since completing his PhD, Müller has also held visiting positions at Stanford University (2013), the University of Brunei Darussalam (2014), the University of Oxford (2015), and the National University of Singapore (2016).  He has taught seminars at anthropological institutes in Frankfurt, Mainz Heidelberg, Halle and Leipzig. In 2016 he was appointed as a member of the Young Academy of the Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz. His research has been published in such peer-reviewed journals as Asian Survey, Indonesia and the Malay WorldSouth East Asia Research, GlobalizationsPaideuma: Mitteilungen für Kulturkunde, Internationales Asienforum: International Quarterly for Asian Studies, the Journal of Contemporary Southeast Asian Affairs (forthcoming), the Cambridge Journal of Law and Religion (forthcoming), and in the Encyclopedia of Islam (Brill, forthcoming).

His publications cover a wide range of topics related to Islam in Southeast Asia, such as religious politics and popular culture, bureaucracy and state-making, symbolic power, law and social change, and regional human rights discourses in the context of ASEAN. He is also keenly interested in transregional perspectives, and intends to extend his work beyond Southeast Asia (especially to Europe) in the future.üller

Why Law and Anthropology

I am deeply fascinated by the phenomenon of normative change and how different forms of normativity, including formalized and non-formalized ones, interact and are socially (re-)produced – particularly when it comes to religious truth claims that are presented as unchanging and eternal by some involved actors. The methodological and epistemic foci of anthropology are most suitable for investigating such socio-legal questions, especially in the ‘messy’ realities of everyday life that interest me most.

In my view, as academic disciplines, law and anthropology can benefit greatly from transdisciplinary exchange; unfortunately, this endeavour is still rarely pursued. The Department of Law and Anthropology at the MPI is a genuine trailblazer in pushing this project forward, which makes it the ideal place for me to conduct my research on the socio-legal dimensions of the bureaucratization of Islam in Southeast Asia.

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