Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

This Max Planck Institute is primarily concerned with research into various forms of diversity. In today’s societies, people of varying ethnic and religious backgrounds often live side by side. The spectrum ranges from peaceful multiculturalism to bloody conflict – but when does the one occur and when the other? Through wide-ranging empirical studies and by developing theoretical concepts, the Göttingen-based Institute seeks to broaden our understanding of these issues of human coexistence. The main focus of this work is on basic research, but in some instances it extends as far as advising on political policy.


Hermann-Föge-Weg 11
37073 Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 4956-0
Fax: +49 551 4956-170

PhD opportunities

This institute has no International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS).

There is always the possibility to do a PhD. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Ethics, Law, and Politics


Department Socio-Cultural Diversity

Democracy in decline in Africa

Opinion: Elections in African states are manipulated, the opposition suppressed, demonstrations violently dissolved. Europe and the USA ignore this far too often, says political scientist Elena Gadjanova.

New insights into economic and social change

How do moral and ethical convictions affect local economies and impact global capitalism? This is the fundamental question driving the projects of the new Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change.

Kenya's 2017 election and its aftermath

After a fraught election, Kenya is teetering on the brink of a crisis which threatens to escalate. How could this happen? Is there any hope for reconciliation? An analysis by Elena Gadjanova of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen.

New social diversity in global cities

Comparatively conceiving, observing and visualising diversification in public urban spaces

Spirituality on the way to globalisation

Spirituality and secular ideas have developed alongside one another in Europe and the US


Since 2015, around 1.4 million refugees have applied for asylum in Germany. They would like to find sanctuary or a new home here. How firm a foothold they gain in their new life depends on a number of factors. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen are taking a closer look at what needs and goals the refugees have – and whether these can be fulfilled.

A modern metropolis in India: many different ethnic groups come together every day. A wide variety of languages can be heard, and very often, people who have no common language have to communicate with each other. People involuntarily resort to gesticulation, and their counterparts usually have no trouble understanding what is meant. But gestures can also be defined terms in a language of their own – the sign language of the deaf.

Ayelet Shachar wanted to be an architect. She wanted to create spaces and provide homes for people. As a lawyer and political scientist, however, she discovered the spaces of the law – and the possibilities they provide for enabling migrants and locals to find ways of living together. Every community, says the Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, needs the discourse about aims and identity. And every individual has the right to participation and a home.

While Islam is still perceived by many as the greatest impediment to integration in European immigration societies, a team of scientists headed by Matthias Koenig has come up with a more differentiated approach. As a sociologist and Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, he has led the “Governance of Cultural Diversity – Socio-Legal Dynamics” Research Group since December 2011.

Yoga, tai chi and qi gong aren’t what they once were – that much is clear to anthropologist Peter van der Veer. At the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, he has been studying the meaning of the spiritual and how it has changed in modern societies.

Journalist in Residence Fellowship

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen October 25, 2018

Temples, Rituals and the Transformation of Transnational Networks in Southeast Asia

2018 van der Veer, Peter; Dean, Kenneth

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

For more than six centuries, a Southeast Chinese trading empire spread around the coastal ports of Southeast Asia. This trading network was built up through common language, social and cultural-religious institutions. Over the past 30 years, this large network has turned back to China, with more than a million temples being rebuilt, especially in the south-east. The restoration of these local and transnational networks is an extremely important phenomenon. Chinaʼs interaction with Southeast Asia is far more complex than simplifying models about the spread of Chinese “soft power” suggest.


The fortified border has always served as a powerful symbol of sovereignty, governance and jurisdiction. Now a new and striking phenomenon—the shifting border—has emerged. Unlike a refortified physical barrier, it is not fixed in time and place. Instead, prosperous countries increasingly rely on sophisticated legal tools to detach migration regulation from a fixed territorial location. This reinvention relies on law’s admission gates rather than a specific frontier location with dramatic implications for the scope of rights and protections that migrants and other non-citizens may enjoy.


How cities in Germany and France respond to diversity

2016 Martínez Ariño, Julia; Schönwälder, Karen

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

Cities all over the world are becoming more and more diverse. The CityDiv project looks at local responses to the diversification of urban populations in Germany and France. By responses to diversity the project refers to the measures taken at the local level to deal with the changing characteristics and needs of urban populations. Two main research questions guide the CityDiv project. First, do cities respond in similar or different ways to the diversification of their populations? Second, do, and if so how, issues related to diversity enter into cities’ governance networks?


Urban aspirations in Seoul: Religion and megacities in comparative studies

2015 Jung, Jin-Heon

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

The success of Seoul’s modernization has been accompanied by religious revivals, demonstrating a stark contrast to the Eurocentric secularization theory. This makes the South Korean capital’s metropolis area with over 26 million people a productive and provocative site for historical and contemporary comparison. Christianity is used as a starting point in a project from which to illuminate multiple religious and urban aspirations. But Seoul is also known for its great diversity of religious expressions and Christianity’s vexed relationship with Buddhism, Shamanism, and Islam.


GLOBALDIVERCITIES – migration and new diversities in global cities

2014 Vertovec, Steven

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

How can people live together, with ever more diverse characteristics, in the world’s rapidly expanding cities? Research at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity asks: What are the similarities and differences in social and spatial patterns that arise when new diversity meets old diversity? Three contexts of super-diversity are studied spanning anthropology and human geography to understand the changing nature of diversity and its socio-spatial patterns: New York, Singapore, and Johannesburg.

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