Welcome to the Newsletter of the Ethics, Law and Politics Department, the third and most recent Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen. With this Newsletter we wish to keep you informed about our research events and major publications in 2018, introduce new people to the Department and preview a few upcoming events. This is the first issue, the Newsletter will appear every 6-12 months. If you are interested in following our activities, please subscribe here and forward to your colleagues, friends, networks as you see fit.

Ethics, Law and Politics Department Newsletter

Issue 1, Dec 2017 – Dec 2018

The year 2018 has been yet another highly productive time of intellectual activities and outputs from the Department. This Newsletter highlights some of the major research events and publications, introduces new people in the Department, spotlights a special outreach event, and previews a few upcoming events.


Welcoming Refugees: The Role of Religion | October 12, 2018
This conference explored the role of religion in public life, focusing on the question of whether, and if so, how and why, faith communities have contributed to the historical and contemporary development of the concept of the refugee. The participants also examined the influence of religious narratives on crystalizing modern-day ethical commitments to host and resettle asylum seekers. This multidisciplinary event brought together historians, theologians, lawyers, geographers, political scientists and international relations scholars. It was held at the MPI-MMG with the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in Comparative Constitutionalism.

Labor Migration: Global and Comparative Dimensions | May 18, 2018 
Organized in collaboration with the Faculty of Law of the Georg-August Universität Göttingen, the event brought together scholars from Europe and North America to examine topics in labor migration, including precarious migration; high-skilled migration; and the relation between migration, labor, and trade. Christine Langenfeld, Judge on the Federal Constitutional Court, and Holger Kolb of the Expert Council on Integration and Migration, delivered the keynote, using the case of high-skilled migration to Germany to consider emerging challenges within EU labor migration law.

Migration, Citizenship, and Democracy: Contemporary Ethical Challenges Part II | March 22–23, 2018
Held at Harvard University, this conference continued the conversation begun in Berlin the year prior, bringing together an international community of scholars to discuss the social and political transformations as well as the ethical challenges that arise from the accelerated speed and expanded scale of migration. Ayelet Shachar (MPI-MMG) delivered the keynote, “Shifting Borders of Justice: Territory, Market, Migration,” examining the changing nature of territorial, legal, and normative borders. The conference was made possible through collaboration with the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility at The New School, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University, and Freie Universität Berlin Research College, The Transformative Power of Europe.

The Ethics of Migration Beyond the Immigrant-Host State Nexus | January 11–12, 2018
Organized in collaboration with the European University Institute and held at the EUI, the conference sought to reframe the discussion of migration in normative political theory. In a shift away from the focus on the relation between the individual immigrant and the state of destination, the event addressed topics ranging from the role of non-state actors and local communities in migration governance to the ethics of borders and deportation resistance. The event brought together an international group of scholars from Europe, North America, China, Singapore, and Peru.

Politics of Migration: Testing the Boundaries of Membership | December 15, 2017
This was the Second Annual Goethe-Göttingen Critical Exchange, co-organized by Rainer Forst (Normative Orders, Frankfurt) and Ayelet Shachar (MPI-MMG). Featured panels highlighted the work of David Miller (Nuffield College, Oxford) and Andreas Cassee (Freie Universität Berlin; Institut für Philosophie, Universität Bern) and concluded with a roundtable chaired by Ayelet Shachar and including Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff, former Judge on Federal Constitutional Court (Bielefeld), Hiroshi Motomura (UCLA), and François Crépeau, who previously served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants (McGill). Shachar posed questions to each panelist regarding the biggest challenges faced in the context of migration and most relevant institutions and actors currently responding to these challenges. A transcribed version of François Crépeau’s remarks are available at the MPI-MMG website.

Ethics, Law and Politics Work-in-Progress Series
The Department meets regularly to provide critical, constructive commentary on research in process. During the last year postdoctoral fellows, guests and visiting scholars presented work that has since been accepted for publication in International Migration, Political Theory, The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of the City and the Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence (see more details below) and that has additionally been presented at conferences in Florence, Boston, Copenhagen, Porto, Bielefeld, Montreal, Paris and New York, among others.


Ayelet Shachar published an essay on “The Marketization of Citizenship in an Age of Restrictionism in Ethics and International Affairs which develops further Shachar’s critique of the global surge of the commodification of citizenship and provides a powerful argument why political membership should not be up for purchase. A podcast based on this publication appeared in the Ethics and International Affairs Author Interview Series under the title of “Golden Visas, Dreamers and the Ethics of Migration”, which was also featured in the Max Planck Research Magazine.

Benjamin Boudou made a major contribution to current debates in political theory on the ethical dilemma of borders with his second monograph “Le dilemme des frontières: éthique et politique de l’immigration published by Editions de l’EHESS, Paris in 2018. This book has been reviewed and discussed in Open Edition, Esprit, Le nouveau magazine littéraire, at the philosophy festival “CitéPhilo” in Lille, at Sciences Po Paris, and at the French Research Foundation of “Doctors Without borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)”.

In a research article on “Machiavelli and the Fortress City” published in Political Theory in 2018 Derek Denman made an original contribution in offering a new interpretation of Machiavelli’s concept of the fortress. The article argues that fortresses serve to privatize civic life and turns to Machiavelli to envision durable public spaces in place of urban fortifications.

With another conceptual intervention in political and legal theory on “Der Flüchtling als normative Idee” published by Metaphora, Dana Schmalz argues that the concept of the refugee is a normative one that emerged alongside state formation processes and that can nowadays serve both as the object as well as the engine of societal critique.

Stefan Schlegel published the article “Move inside the “Bell Jar”: A Property Rights Approach to the Skills of Migrants” in International Migration which develops the idea that control over somebody’s migration can be understood as a property right, exploring the implications for both migrants and states.

Tania Pagotto took on the question of religious minority rights and critically analysed “The ‘living together’ argument in the European Court of Human Rights case-law” in STUDIA z PRAWA WYZNANIOWEGO / STUDIES in LAW on RELIGION. She argues that the Court used the abstract idea of ‘living together’ as a legal justification for the prohibition of the full-face veil and failed to adopt a more fact-based approach.

With his article on “The Right to be Publicly Naked: A Defence of Nudism” published in Res Publica Bouke de Vries proposes to introduce a legal right for the freedom of public nudity (when this poses no health threat) rather than penalize it because it promotes individual well-being and has expressive political and religious value.

Caleb Yong published an article on “Justifying Resistance to Immigration Law: The Case of Mere Noncompliance” in the Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence which takes up the normative question of when potential migrants to, and citizens of, a constitutional democracy are morally justified to breaching immigration laws. The article argues that only egregiously unjust laws are sufficient for nonviolent compliance.


Elisabeth Badenhoop joined the Department in September 2018 as a post-doctoral research fellow. A sociologist by training (PhD, University of Glasgow), her research explores the governance of citizenship and migration from a comparative perspective with a specific focus on the genealogy, enforcement and the lived experiences of naturalization procedures in Britain and Germany. Prior to joining the ELP Department, she was a research fellow in the “Seeing Illegal Immigrants” project at the University of Edinburgh.

Mareike Riedel joined us in September 2018 as a post-doctoral research fellow, coming from the Australian National University’s School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) where she completed her PhD under the supervision of Hilary Charlesworth. With a background in law, linguistics, literature, and journalism, her research analyzes the impact of identity discourses on the regulation of religious minorities, with special emphasis on the experiences of Jewish communities in Germany and Australia.

Gail Lythgoe of the University of Glasgow School of Law joined us as a visiting doctoral fellow from October until December 2018. Her PhD research critically examines the different territorialities and spatialities of international law, specifically the contradictions within international law about the “end of geography” on the one hand, and the ongoing centrality of territory, on the other.

Stefan Salomon is Research Associate and Head of the Refugee Law Clinic at the Law Faculty of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz and joined the Department during the fall term as a visiting post-doctoral fellow. His research explores the impact of irregular migration on changed conceptions of citizenship drawing on case studies from U.S.-Mexico, EU-Morocco, and South Africa-Mozambique.

Alexander Hudson joined the Max Planck Fellow Group “Comparative Constitutionalism” as a post-doctoral research fellow in summer 2018. Holding a PhD in political science from the University of Texas at Austin, his research focuses on the impact of public participation in constitution-making processes with a particular focus on Brazil, South Africa, and Iceland.

Faisal Kamal also joined the Max Planck Fellow Group “Comparative Constitutionalism” as a visiting doctoral fellow in the fall term. Currently a PhD candidate on the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, his research examines how appellate courts in Bangladesh and Pakistan have defined, structured, and imagined religion in their jurisprudence.


On the 70th anniversary of the Max Planck Society, scientists from across Germany participated in a Max-Planck-Day on September 14, 2018 to celebrate and showcase the diversity of cutting-edge research undertaken at Max Planck Institutes. Lisa Harms and Stefan Schlegel visited local schools, presented their research and engaged with the teenagers’ critical questions. Stefan Schlegel also contributed to a “science slam” in a packed local venue in Göttingen. These special outreach activities were highly successful and very well received. When asked whether they took anything away with them at the end of the day, one of the pupils immediately and wholeheartedly replied: “Absolutely!” (Auf jeden Fall!) and some even inquired about the possibility of doing an internship with the MPI-MMG. 


Public Law and Spatial Governance: New Frontiers | December 7, 2018
Participants in this international conference include: Eyal Benvenisti (Lauterpacht Center for International Law, University of Cambridge), Michael Dowdle (Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore), Paul Frymer (Professor of Politics, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University), Ran Hirschl (Alexander von Humboldt Professor in Comparative Constitutionalism, Göttingen/Toronto), Catherine Powell (Professor of Law, Fordham Law School), and Ayelet Shachar (MPI-MMG), among others.

Special Lecture and Masterclass by Hiroshi Motomura | January 16-17, 2019

Structural and Historical Injustice | March 14, 2019
Third Annual Goethe-Göttingen Critical Exchange, co-organized by Rainer Forst (Normative Orders, Frankfurt) and Ayelet Shachar (MPI-MMG). Keynote speakers: Catherine Lu (Political Science, McGill), Rainer Forst (Normative Orders, Frankfurt), and Cécile Laborde (Nuffield College, University of Oxford).

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