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 more
Department Socio-Cultural Diversity more
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. more
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. more
New social diversity in global cities
Comparatively conceiving, observing and visualising diversification in public urban spaces more
Spirituality on the way to globalisation
Spirituality and secular ideas have developed alongside one another in Europe and the US more
Health in India - Healing with Amulets and Antibiotics
Traditional and modern healing methods exist in India in parallel. Both approaches can supplement each other more
Origin and nationality hardly make a difference in the daily work of Youth Welfare Offices
Frankfurt - Networking cultural diversity
The city of Frankfurt is a cultural melting pot. Scientists examine how people with over 170 different nationalities live together and integrate themselves into society. more
The legend of good cop / bad cop
Max Planck researchers study police work in South Africa more
The Institute, in Göttingen, now moves forward in a new direction more
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.
Residents with an immigrant background make up around a quarter of the population in Germany’s major cities. A team of scientists headed by Karen Schönwälder at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen has been investigating whether these inhabitants are adequately represented at City Hall. They have also been looking at the motives and conditions under which councilors with foreign roots involve themselves in politics, and the resentments they encounter.
Although Gabriele Alex and Vibha Joshi belong to different departments at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, both scientists are studying the wide range of healing methods used and traditions followed in Indian society. Here they show from different perspectives how the supposed contradictions aren’t really all that incompatible in practice.

Networking Diversity

MPR 3 /2010 Culture & Society
Frankfurt ranks among the global cities. Sociologists are studying the sheer variety of the city’s social mix and contributing to a new draft integration and diversity plan.
Doctoral Fellowship
Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen May 02, 2018

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. more

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. more

The spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China: charisma, money, enlightenment

2013 Smyer Yu, Dan
Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

The revival of Tibetan Buddhism in contemporary China is intimately bound with both the affirming and negating forces of globalization, modernity, and politics of religion, indigenous identity reclamation, and the market economy. Tibetan Buddhism is multidimensional in relation to different religious, cultural, and political constituencies of China. Its revival is not an isolated event limited merely to Tibetan regions; instead, it is a result of the intersection of both local and global transformative changes.


Global Cities – Open Cities? Segregation in the Global South

2012 Vigneswaran, Darshan
Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences
Why aren’t the forces of globalization creating open cities? In South Africa and India new urban elites are closely connected to a global economy and culture. Meanwhile, the segregation of their immediate neighbors in slums and townships creates unprecedented harm to the human development of marginal communities.  A comparison between two global cities, Johannesburg and Mumbai, will refocus research on segregation. more

Urban religion in Mumbai and Singapore

2011 van der Veer, Peter
Social and Behavioural Sciences
This research project at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity compares the location of religion and the construction of belonging in two world cities, Mumbai and Singapore. Singapore is a global city and a nation-state. Mumbai is India’s most modern mega-city. The project addresses three questions: What is the relation between urban religiosity and secular urbanity? To what extent are these cities to be understood as “global”? What explains the differences in multicultural politics in these two cities? more

Diversity and Society

2010 Nieswand, Boris
Social and Behavioural Sciences
Over the last years three reasons have contributed to an increased interest in the concept of diversity: general tendencies towards individualization, increase in migration-based diversity, increase in value of antidiscrimination discourses. By confronting the academic challenges of ethnic and religious diversity, social scientific migration research opens itself towards research on society in general. more

Immigrants in Mainstream Politics: In Germany Still Rare

2009 Schönwälder, Karen
Social and Behavioural Sciences
So far, the integration of immigrants in political decision-making processes is a little researched topic. A project at the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity investigates the conditions and development of immigrants’ political careers and shows that the careers of members of parliaments follow different logics in different European states. more

Researching new Intersections of Diversity

2008 Vertovec, Steven
Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences
Widespread and accelerating globalization processes have meant that modes and markers of diversity have become more enhanced. The current rising salience of ethnic and religious identities is emblematic of such developments. The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity will be devoted to comparative research and theoretical analysis of historical and contemporary patterns of diversity in Europe and around the world. more
The research program “The German royal palaces: survey of the Pfalzen, royal courts and other places of residence of the kings in the medieval German Reich” at the Max-Planck-Institute for History in Göttingen, provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary compendium of the locations where the East Frankish-German kings stayed. The project will be accompanied by colloquia which will look at places of power in a comparative, international perspective. more
A step in the development from a society of estates to a society of qualification finally realized in the French Revolution may be observed at the highest judges of the Parlement de Paris in the second half of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. Not content of being assigned to the Third Estate, they demanded a new structure of both society and state. Their living conditions and especially their libraries give insights into their intellectual backgrounds. more

Places of power

2004 Ehlers, Caspar
Cultural Studies
The idea for the "Orte der Herrschaft - Places of Power" project at the Max-Planck-Institut für Geschichte grew out of a workshop in comparative medieval history at Harvard University. Comparative presentations of Islamic, Byzantine and medieval German palaces suggested the potential interest of exploring a comparative approach in the context of the research program "Repertorium der deutschen Königspfalzen". The idea is to set the specialized work ongoing in the Repertorium against the broader comparative backdrop of the European Middle Ages. more
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