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.

The picture shows researcher Steven Vertovec, Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, standing in front of a bookshelf in a library. Vertovec, wearing blue jeans, a blue shirt and a black jacket, is looking straight at the camera. He sports a full greying beard.

In his book, Steven Vertovec reevaluates social identities

Picture of a street neighbourhood in Nima, a Zongo residential town in the region around Accra in Ghana. The picture is taken from above at what appears to be dusk, the light is diffuse and the sky tinged orange. You can see rooftops, and a street with houses of various sizes stacked against one another. Cars are driving down the street, some with their headlights on.

Modern migration is more complex than ever


Research highlights 2023

December 19, 2023

Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2023 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 12 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year


Research project presents ways of overcoming future immigration challenges


Miriam Schader and Constantin Hruschka on the Science Initiative Migration

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When young people migrate without their parents, the most important question for German authorities is: are they minors or young adults? Unaccompanied minors receive support and legal protection, while adults must endure a protracted asylum procedure on their own. Ulrike Bialas has investigated the situation of young refugees. She advocates a more flexible approach to the question of age.

The Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire are long gone - but in many European cities, they are still very much alive. In Vienna, for example, remembrance of the times when the city was besieged by the Turks is fostered, while the tens of thousands of Viennese citizens of Turkish origin are ignored. At the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, a team led by Jeremy F. Walton is studying the way in which former empires are treated today.

The future of societies worldwide is currently being reshaped at a fundamental level by concurrent crises: the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic recession and climate change. Steven Vertovec considers how these three crises are seriously affecting global migration. He describes the complex factors that relate to global migration and outlines the challenges that loom ahead.

Five years ago, the arrival of thousands of refugees within a short period of time presented the administrative offices of the German municipal authorities with a huge challenge. Taking three towns in Lower Saxony as an example, Miriam Schader from the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen studied how the municipal authorities handled the situation.

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.

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Ageing in the context of mass labour migration

2023 Torno, Swetlana

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

How does the mobility of younger generations affect the lives of older adults? Do parents become more mobile when their children live and work temporarily or permanently abroad? Who supports ageing parents in their everyday lives? And how does the older generation experience the mobility of their children and their being far away? In an increasingly mobile (working) world, ideas and experiences of ageing are changing as well. I study these processes in my research project, taking the example of Tajikistan.


Refugees without Age

2022 Bialas, Ulrike

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

Because minors and adults have different rights, German government agencies need to know a person’s exact age. In the case of young refugees, this is often a challenge: few own identity documents and many do not even know their date of birth. How do government agencies deal with such uncertainty? And how do refugees themselves experience the enormous significance of their age in Germany? In my research, I examine age from multiple perspectives and show that this ostensibly straightforward biological category is also a complex social construct.


Open to diversity?

2021 Boekle, Sanja; Schönwälder, Karen

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

The political presence and representation of immigrants is a controversial topic in German society. Increasingly, marginalisation and discrimination are no longer being accepted as the norm. But to what extent are advocacy organisations, important actors in a democracy, willing and able to represent the interests of the migrant population, to open up to them, and to ensure their participation on an equal footing? These are the questions we explored in our research project.


Religion, morality and economic transformation

2020 Ladwig, Patrice

Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

The connections of religion, morality and economy featured prominently among the classical works in the sociology of religion, but new economic forms, their global entanglements and their effects on religious actors demand new research approaches. In Buddhism one finds ritual technologies of self-cultivation, which are used for enhancement of productivity. There are also ritual economies, which re-distribute wealth according to moral criteria. The economy is therefore not to be understood as a solely rational and secular matter, but is embedded in religious practices and moral values.


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.

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