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

Using a challenge as an opportunity

How local authorities organized the reception of asylum seekers in 2015/16

Asylum facilities that violate laws

Conditions in Greek EU hotspots and German arrival centres violate fundamental rights and EU directives

Global breathing

An essay by Peter van der Veer on the different ways of dealing with face masks, toilet paper and the fear of death in Asia and the western world

Covid-19 and enduring stigma

The corona pandemic is increasing xenophobia and exclusion worldwide. A commentary by Steven Vertovec

Borders in the time of COVID-19

In her essay, Max Planck Director Ayelet Shachar describes how governments in western countries are increasingly trying to control access to their territories from a distance and monitor the mobility of their own citizens


Despite some gains in the past decade, democracy is in trouble in Africa. Only nine countries on the continent are currently classified as democratic according to the Economist, with more than half under authoritarian rule. Elections are habitually manipulated, the opposition is harassed, civil society is suppressed, and demonstrations are violently dispersed. Autocrats are also increasingly relying on modern technology and foreign “consultants” to maintain power – and are largely allowed to do so undisturbed. As our author critically notes, Europe and the U.S. far too often look away out of fear of instability. This allows incumbents to cling on to power and gradually erode the institutions and expectations sustaining democracy.

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.

Postdoctoral Fellowship

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen September 25, 2017

Ageing across borders: Growing older in a globalised world

2019 Amrith, Megha

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

The world’s population is ageing. Yet, not all of these people will be growing older in the places they might have imagined. As individuals, families and communities become increasingly embedded in transnational networks that span multiple locales, it is timely to examine the cultural, political and ethical implications of growing older in an interconnected but unequal world.


Empires of memory

2018 Walton, Jeremy F.

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

The empires that once defined Europe no longer exist. However, Europe’s former empires have not simply become relics of history. Imperial pasts continue to inspire nostalgia, identification, pride, anxiety, skepticism, and disdain today. Especially the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires are enjoying a renaissance and even are thought to offer solutions to today’s conflicts based on ethnic, religious and national diversity. Following the legacies and memories of empires in eight southeast and central European cities sheds light on forms of “restorative” and “reflective” nostalgia for both empires.


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

2017 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

2015 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?

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