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

Dominik Müller

Research Interests
Political Anthropology; Anthropology of Bureaucracy and the State; Anthropology of Religion (esp. Islam); social/normative change; popular culture; social agency of bureaucratic form; magic/sorcery and (in-)visibility.

Research Area(s)
Southeast Asia (esp. Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore; Emmy Noether project also including Indonesia and the Philippines)


Dominik M. Müller is the Head of the DFG Emmy Noether 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 also holds a post-doctoral grant from the Daimler and Benz Foundation (2018–20, project "Social Categlorization and Religiously Framed State-Making in Southeast Asia"), and a Research Fellowship at the National University of Singapore (2017-2020). He has recently been a stipendiary Visiting Fellow at Harvard University's "Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change" (2018), to which he will return for a second Fellowship in spring 2019. 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 (ERASMUS) from 2003 to 2008.

His PhD thesis on the rise of pop-Islamism in Malaysia received the Frobenius Society’s Research Award for Germany's best anthropological dissertation of 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 in its Young Scholar Competition 2014. He received the John A. Lent Prize 2018 from the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) for a paper peresented at the AAS 2017 Conference outlining the Emmy Noether project's approach.

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 anthropology courses in Frankfurt, Mainz Heidelberg, Halle-Wittenberg and Leipzig. He is an appointed member of the Junge Akademie | Mainz (2016-2020). His research has been published in such peer-reviewed journals as Asian Survey, GlobalizationsIndonesia and the Malay WorldSouth East Asia Research, Paideuma: Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde,  International Quarterly for Asian Studies, the Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, and the Journal of Law and Religion. He has been invited to submit four entries to the Encyclopedia of Islam's (Brill) third edition. He is the editor of Berita, the official publication of the AAS' Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei Studies Group. He has advised German and international journalists for Southeast Asia-related news coverage and has been cited by various media outlets. Beyond academia, he has conducted consultancy research projects in the fields of human rights and Islamic alms management.

His publications cover a wide range of topics related to Islam, politics and socio-cultural transformations in Southeast Asia. He is also keenly interested in transregional and comparative perspectives, and intends to extend his work beyond Southeast Asia in the future.üller

Why Law and Anthropology

I am 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 an exciting place for me to conduct my research on the bureaucratization of Islam in Southeast Asia.

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