About the Institute
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 and Günther Schlee, and moved to its permanent buildings on Advokatenweg 36 in Halle/Saale in 2001. Marie-Claire Foblets 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.
Together with the meanwhile well established Institute for Social Anthropology of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg it comprises the largest centre of anthropological competence and research in Europe, supplemented by close cooperation with the University of Leipzig – especially the Institute of Anthropology and the Institute of African Studies.
Focal research areas at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology include semiarid parts of Africa where social organisations based on clans and lineages still exist. The state has a limited impact in marginal areas or even a negative impact, being a bone of contention (appropriation of the state) and generating rather than regulating conflict. One group has also taken up research in the Upper Guinea Coast (Liberia, Sierra Leone), an extremely conflict ridden area. Other focal areas are Central Asia, where tribal forms of organisation have persisted very long, and conflict zones like Northern Ireland and the Balkans. The approaches under which these regions are studied include ‚Integration and Conflict’ and ‚Legal Pluralism’ (the titles of two of the Institute’s long-standing research agenda).
Modern resource conflicts like those about mineral resources, prominent among them petroleum, or water and arable land which become increasingly scarce, often lead to the breakdown of states or to the temporary withdrawal of state power. Systems based on decentralised violence and retaliation then often re-emerge. State and non-state agents, local and global forces, all have to be examined in this context. In the modern world there are no pure and self-sufficient local forms of organisations left, if such have ever existed. This is exemplified by the work on Chad, the Sudan and Somalia carried out at the institute.
Research at the MPI Halle is carried out in two departments, a project group and the Siberian Studies Centre. The research agenda is implemented in a joint set of interrelated research questions which facilitates discussion and provides a stimulating environment for the Institute’s staff. In addition the MPI profits from its intensive guest programme which allows researchers from all over the world to participate on a variety of workshops and conferences organised by the Institute or to stay up to several months as visiting fellows.
Special seminars introduce new scientists to Institute facilities and to administrative procedures relevant to researchers. Because of the central significance of extended fieldwork, related and related methods, special training is offered before researchers leave for fieldwork. Practical training includes an introduction in the wide range of technical equipment which is used during fieldwork, audio-visual technologies, the use of special software for qualitative and quantitative data analysis, fieldwork methods such as micro-censuses and the genealogical method. The Institute’s library provides researchers with a wide range of literature relevant to the research agenda, including main works from related disciplines, such as sociology, history, law and the political science. It comprises currently 14.600 monographs and 132 journal subscriptions. Research facilities are not only highly estimated by the Institute’s staff, but also by international visiting researchers.
IMPRS REMEP Doctoral Students