Prof. Dr. Mirjam Künkler



since 2019
Univesity of Bordeaux
Research Professor of Comparative Social Science
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Senior Fellow
2016 – 2019
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study
Research Professor
2015 – 2016
Universität Göttingen
Senior Fellow, Lichtenberg-Kolleg
2007 – 2015
Princeton University
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Near Eastern Studies

Research Project

Legal Pluralism in the Post-Colony

The project deals with legal pluralism in personal status law. A third of the world’s population currently lives under pluri-legal personal status systems, and no fewer than 53 states in Asia and Africa apply pluri-legal personal status law today. In most cases, these arrangements are remnants of colonial or imperial administrations. Partly because of that, many national leaders shortly after independence sought to phase out pluri-legal arrangements and unify their law as ‘one law for all’. Accordingly, the unification of legal systems became a major pillar of many postcolonial nation-building projects. Interestingly, by the 1970s and 1980s, many of these states re-introduced pluri-legal arrangements or formalized such arrangements where they had been phased out in the law, but had survived as social practices (e.g., families using informal arbitration councils in divorce and child custody cases rather than state-run family courts). The history of legal pluralism in personal status law in the 20th century therefore features two broad divergent trends: the unification of personal status law in the first 10-15 years after a country’s independence, and the subsequent re-pluralization of personal status law about 30 years later. This project seeks to examine and explain these two trends. 

Selected Publications

Künkler, Mirjam and Devin Stewart (eds.), Female Religious Authority in Shi‘i Islam, Edinburgh 2021.

Künkler, Mirjam and Hadi Enayat, The Rule of Law in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Power, Institutions, and Prospects for Reform, Cambridge, in press.

Künkler, Mirjam, John Madeley and Shylashri Shankar (eds.), ‘A Secular Age’ Beyond the West. Religion, Law and Multiple Secularities in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Cambridge 2018.

Künkler, Mirjam, Rule of Law or Rule by Law? Iran’s Bar Association as a pawn in Islamic-republican contestations, in: Silvia Tellenbach and Thoralf Hanstein (eds.), Beiträge zum Islamischen Recht XII (Leipziger Beiträge zur Orientforschung 36), Frankfurt a. M. 2017, 133-153.

Künkler, Mirjam, Constitutionalism, Islamic Law, and Religious Freedom in post-independence Indonesia, in: Asli Bali and Hanna Lerner (eds.), Religion in Constitution-Writing, Cambridge 2017, 179-206.

Künkler, Mirjam and Alfred Stepan (eds.), Al-Dimokratia va al-Islam fi Indonisia, Beirut 2015.