People | Projects | Publications | Events

The Department

Established in March 2012, the 'Law & Anthropology' Department’s point of departure is the observation that values and norms today are circulating ever more vigorously among diverse societies and cultures. With this intensification of exchanges and encounters comes an increasing demand for translation between different legal orders at various levels of decision making all over the world. This demand engages, among others, the disciplines of social anthropology and law. It requires them not only to confront their own serious epistemological and conceptual constraints, each from its own perspective, but also to examine the extent to which scholars of the disciplines in question can and should take responsibility for the impact and the effects these translations may have in practice. Read more

Current Research Groups

(VULNER) Vulnerabilities Under the Global Protection Regime. How Does the Law Assess, Address, Shape and Produce the Vulnerabilities of the Protection Seekers?

In recent years, policy and legal developments at EU and global level have increasingly emphasised the need to address and reduce migrants’ “vulnerabilities”. The objective is to tailor protection policies in a way that addresses specific protection needs. Yet, there is no solid understanding of the concrete meanings, practical consequences, and legal implications of migrants’ “vulnerability”. This group aims to address these uncertainties from a critical and comparative perspective, with an empirical focus on select countries in Europe (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Norway) and Africa (Uganda and South Africa), Canada and Lebanon. The analysis will combine a study of the relevant legal and policy frameworks and implementing practices, with field studies in select migrant settlements to document migrants’ experiences, including how they mobilize existing vulnerability categories to support their survival strategies. The research is funded by the EU under the grant agreement No. 870845 and a matching funding of the Canadian research council SSHRC/CRSH. (

The Bureaucratization of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia

The group investigates Muslim discourses in the context of state power in Southeast Asia and theorizes the 'bureaucratization of Islam' as a socio-legal phenomenon. It ethnographically explores the production of the state’s 'classificatory power' through Islam-bureaucratic agencies and other actors interacting with (and thereby constructing) the state in multiple ways. Arguing that the bureaucratization of Islam transcends its organizational boundaries, the project also asks how religiously framed national truth politics resonate with social transformation processes and related subject formations.

The Challenges of Migration, Integration and Exclusion

In the recent debates on migration to Europe, and Germany in particular, researchers as well as policy makers have placed a great deal of emphasis on pathways to successful integration of immigrants and asylum-seekers. This project, on the other hand, aims to increase our understanding of the mechanisms and dynamics which exclude migrants to varying degrees from certain spheres of social life. Key to this project is the recognition that exclusion and inclusion are continuous processes rather than mutually exclusive end results.

Conflict Regulation in Germany’s Plural Society

This research team’s task is to engage in ethnographic work on extra-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms among a number of minority groups living in Germany. The project is primarily rooted in the theories and methods of legal pluralism, with specific interest in the coexistence of often competing and conflicting normative orders as well as the associated multiplicity of legal systems and sources of law. With this analytical approach, the project commits its research agenda to a broad and all-encompassing concept of law in society that takes into consideration both the social anthropological approach to normativity, broadly defined, and the rule- and precedent-based approach commonly adopted in jurisprudence and legal studies.

News from the Department

Book launch and discussion "The Construction of Fatherhood: The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights" with author Alice Margaria

Alice Margaria will present her book The Construction of Fatherhood: The Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (CUP, 2019) on 16th September 2020 at 12.00-13.00 CEST. The event will be online – via Microsoft Teams – and is organised by the Center for Fundamental Rights of Hertie School (Berlin), with the support of the Department of ‘Law and Anthropology’. Michaela Kreyenfeld will be a discussant of the book. Prior REGISTRATION is required. Registered attendees will receive the dial-in details as well as a draft paper, on which the presentation is based, via e-mail prior to the event. Cambridge University Press gives a 20% discount on the book. To claim the discount, simply visit the publisher's website and enter the code COF2020 at the checkout. Further info on the event here.

Chaire Genre 2020 awarded to Alice Margaria

Alice Margaria, a Post-doctoral Researcher at the Department of 'Law & Anthropology', has been awarded the Chaire 'Genre' 2020 by the Institut du Genre (Gender Institute), Paris. As holder of the Chaire, she will engage in research in liaison with CREDOF (Centre de Recherches et d’Etudes sur les Droits Fondamentaux). She will also teach various seminars at the University of Paris Nanterre (the host institution) in the field of gender, human rights and family law. Alice's stay will take place in the fall. 

Dissertation Award for Salman Hussain

Salman Hussain, a Research Fellow in the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (MPI) from September 2017 to April 2018, was awarded the UC Berkeley S.S. Pirzada Dissertation Prize in Pakistan Studies. Hussain completed the writing of his dissertation entitled “Together without Consensus: Class, Emotions and the Politics of the Rule of Law in the Lawyers’ Movement (2007–09) in Pakistan” during his stay at the MPI.

New Max Planck Fellow Dirk Hanschel to Study Environmental Protection as a Human Right

Prof. Dr. Dirk Hanschel, Professor of German, European, and International Public Law at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), will carry out a research programme on "Environmental Rights in Cultural Context" as a Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Social Anthropology in Halle starting in January 2019. The fellowship position, which is awarded by the Max Planck Society, is connected with a research grant of up to €500,000.

Research award winner Annelise Riles gives lecture on politics in the digital age

On 12 September 2018 legal scholar and anthropologist Prof. Dr. Annelise Riles was awarded the Anneliese Maier Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She was nominated for the award by the Prof. Dr. Marie-Claire Foblets, Managing Director of the MPI for Social Anthropology. The award, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, includes a grant of €250,000 over a five-year period, which Annelise Riles will use to establish a long-term cooperation with the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ at the MPI. To introduce this collaboration, Annelise Riles will give a lecture on “The Sociality of the Platform” on Monday, 3 December 2018 at 16:15 at the MPI, Advokatenweg 36, 06114 Halle (Saale). This talk is part of the Joint Lecture Series of the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the MPI.

Humanitarian Visas and the External Dimensions of the EU Asylum and Migration Policy: Report of the Workshop

The workshop Humanitarian Visas and the External Dimensions of the EU Asylum and Migration Policy, co-convened by Marie-Claire Foblets and Luc Leboeuf from the Department of Law and Anthropology of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and Winfried Kluth and Dirk Hanschel from the Law Faculty at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, was held at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology on 17-18 May 2018.

Workshop participants discussed the various aspects and tensions characterizing the current developments of the external dimensions of EU asylum and migration policy, which they addressed through the lens of legal controversies and practices on humanitarian visas, resettlement programmes, and other similar programmes such as ‘humanitarian corridors’. The overall objective of the workshop was to reflect on the limits of the current legal framework and hence of what courts can achieve in regulating the external dimensions of EU migration and asylum policy, and on the forms that such external dimensions should take with a view to managing mobility in a human rights sensitive manner. An edited volume based on the proceedings of the workshop will follow.

The long path to becoming part of society: six Max Planck Institutes explore social and legal exclusion as a result of migration

Social scientists have long been interested in the subject of social integration and inclusion. However, there has been much less attention given to the ways that legal provisions, social behaviours, and economic conditions can lead to exclusion.

Inauguration of the extension building

June 09, 2017

The tape-cutting ceremony for the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology’s new building at Advokatenweg 36 will take place on Thursday, 15 June 2017. The ceremony will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will conclude with an inauguration party starting at 6:45 p.m., to which the institute’s neighbours were also invited.

To the picture gallery

Petra Burai receives Pro Dissertatione Iuridica Excellentissima Award

Petra Burai (Department ‘Law & Anthropology’) has received the Pro Dissertatione Iuridica Excellentissima Award from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Legal Studies.

Projects (Selection)

For more information on the researchers of the Department and their projects please click here.

Go to Editor View