Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology is one of the world’s leading centres for research in socio-cultural anthropology. It was established in 1999 by Chris Hann (Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia) and Günther Schlee (Integration and Conflict) in Halle/Saale. Marie-Claire Foblets (Law & Anthropology) joined the Institute as its third Director in 2012. Common to all research projects at the Max Planck Institute is the comparative analysis of social change; it is primarily in this domain that its researchers contribute to anthropological theory, though many programmes also have applied significance and political topicality. Fieldwork is an essential part of almost all projects.


Advokatenweg 36
06114 Halle (Saale)
Phone: +49 345 2927-0
Fax: +49 345 2927-502

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):
IMPRS on Retaliation, Mediation and Punishment
IMPRS for the Anthropology, Archaeology and History of Eurasia

In addition, there is the possibility to apply for doctoral research projects in the frame of the different research foci of the Institute. Please consult our website for vacancies.

Department Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia more
Department Integration and Conflict 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
How terrorists are made

How terrorists are made

January 29, 2016
Terrorist attacks, such as the shootings and bombings across Paris in November 2015 leave us with fear and loathing, but above all, with incomprehension. We cannot understand what motivates people to indiscriminately kill others; and most often, we don’t want to understand. Our author, however, argues that we should endeavour to understand terrorists – he believes this is the only way we can tackle the causes of violence. more
Ten ERC Advanced Grants for Max Planck scientists
Fifty applications for funding successful in Seventh EU Framework Programme more
Max Planck scientists cooperate with partners in more than 110 countries worldwide. Here they relate their personal experiences and impressions. Lale Yalçın-Heckmann, who works at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, is studying values and moral ideas surrounding commercial transactions – taking traditional rose farming in Turkey as an example.
It’s easy to overlook the marginalized. Social exclusion can have very different causes and consequences – also in the context of migration. Six Max Planck Institutes have now joined forces for a cross-institute project focusing on the topic. The project examines, among other things, the question of why immigrants often lose their good health. It explores what prompts Somalis to move from Europe to Kenya, and what consequences the deal between the EU and Turkey might have for the rights of asylum seekers in Greece. Their common aim is to uncover exclusion and develop fair rules to regulate migration.
La Convivencia is viewed as a golden age of tolerance – a period of peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Jews and Christians in medieval Spain. The myth surrounding this period persists to this day. Researchers at the Max Planck Institutes for Social Anthropology in Halle and for the History of Science in Berlin are studying the history of the Convivencia and considering its possible function as a model for today’s world.

Ships were long the fastest means of transportation, capable of carrying people and goods in large quantities. As a result, the seas became a medium through which a variety of nations made contact and carried out trade. To this day, ports serve as hubs and cultural melting pots. Taking the Indian Ocean as their example, Burkhard Schnepel and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology are studying how diverse networks developed across the waters.

Terrorist attacks like those in Paris leave us fearful and horrified, but above all, bewildered. We’re unable – and usually even unwilling – to understand what motivates people to kill others indiscriminately. However, our author believes we should try to understand terrorists. Only then can we combat the causes of violence.

States don’t emerge from a void, but are always the result of political decision-making processes among not only the people who live in them, but also a complex array of external players. The case of South Sudan, the newest member of the international community of sovereign states, is one more example of such a process taking a violent turn, since the divergent interests are far from being balanced, and institutional methods of dealing with conflicts are weak or not generally accepted. Many of the complex patterns of emergence and models involved here strike Katrin Seidel and Timm Sureau from the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology as being extremely familiar.
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Humans and the Land

2018 Schlee, Günther
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
The relationships between groups of human beings and the land they occupy have become more heterogeneous and complex than ever. The department “Integration and Conflict” at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology studies the logic of collective identification and group formation and the different forms of possessiveness found in these relationships. The key example is taken from the south of Ethiopia, where agro-pastoralists find their land to be taken over by large-scale sugar cane production in the hands of investors from other parts of the country and international investors. more

Connectivity in Motion: The Indian Ocean as Maritime Contact and Exchange Zone

2017 Schnepel, Burkhard
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
The Indian Ocean is the third largest Ocean of the world, measuring approximately 69 million square kilometers. It connects Africa, West-, South-, Southeast-, and East Asia among each other. This ocean has been transversed by sailors for more than 5.000 years now, first only in parts, but after the deciphering of the monsoon-code (southwesterly winds in summer, northeasterly winds in winter) at the turn of the common era, also in its entire width. more

Markets in motion. Vietnam’s small-scale traders on the path of the market economy

2016 Endres, Kirsten W.
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences

A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology focuses on the many facets of small-scale trade in Vietnam today. Their work shows that markets form and transform in uneven ways through the interplay between global processes, local trajectories of economic and social development, and everyday interactions between traders, suppliers, customers, and public officials.


The normative-technological construction of a value chain: Moroccan argan oil

2015 Turner, Bertram
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
The intertwining and co-production of normative and technological strands in the politics of natural resource extraction are associated with the transformation of local knowledge into capitalizable intellectual property. The emergence of Moroccan argan oil on the world market shows how the integration of a forest resource in the global economy by means of normative and technological appropriation is organized. The ensuing transformation of the local legal configuration and the livelihood conditions of the local population are in the centre of analysis. more
Depending on their social and political contextualization and status in a given society, languages may function as means of inclusion and exclusion, as ways of (re-)constructing and reconciling collective identities and as strategies to display and transcend group boundaries. Where postcolonial societies are concerned, former colonial policies (also) with regard to language ideologies continue to influence the relationship between language and identity. more
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