C.V. | Publications | Project

Research Interests
Legal anthropology, legal pluralism, legal theory, statehood, governance, constitutionalism, judicial designs, mobility of legal concepts, citizenship, cultural translation, rule of law, mediation, comparative law, Islamic law, coloniality of law.

Research Area
Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Horn of Africa (esp. Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Somaliland).


Katrin Seidel studied law as well as area studies Asia/Africa at Humboldt University in Berlin. Situated at the intersection of legal pluralism and heterogeneous statehood, her research is concerned with the interdependent relationships between plural normative and judicial orders at different levels of regulation.

Her postdoctoral research project focused on the negotiation of societal consensus in the two fragmented, conflict-prone settings of South Sudan and Somaliland, with all of their competing legitimacy claims and different normative logics. She had to recognize, navigate, and address the local–global nexus of lawmaking (where imagined borders of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ actors are blurred), the transnational dimension of law and institution-making, and involved actors’ varying degrees of embeddedness in specific, fluid power constellations, all of which are factors that play into the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion at the different stages of a constitution-making process. Her study improves our understanding of the emergence of novel modes of statehood and governance at the interface of local, (inter-)national, regional and transnational actors.

The postdoctoral project built on her doctoral dissertation on Ethiopia’s state-recognized legal plural arrangement, in particular on the interdependent relationship between Islamic law and state law. The study attempted to better understand, in practice and theory, how these normative and judicial orders function in relation to each other, and to identify potential normative conflicts and how to deal with them.

In her earlier studies, Seidel was trained in the continental European legal tradition in which ‘law’ refers to codified state law. Her expertise in law allows her to contribute to the interdisciplinary dialogue by furthering translations of lawyers’ insights into the anthropologists’ world and vice versa. In this way, her research enriches and opens up the concepts of ‘law’ and ‘state’ for both fields.

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