Judith Beyer’s current research project investigates ‘community’ as a critical category. Based on long-term ethnographic research with ethno-religious minorities in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon, the project is among the first long-term anthropological investigations into how Muslims, Hindus and Christians are dealing with the legal, political, and economic changes triggered by the country’s ‘opening-up’ over the last few years. Her envisioned book Communal Sense. Practices of We-Formation and Ethno-Religious Othering in Myanmar will critically engage with the concept of ‘community’ which is crucial in order to understand class inequalities and political subjectivities in contemporary Myanmar.
Beyer’s doctoral research in the Project Group Legal Pluralism (Franz and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann) was devoted to studying legal pluralism in Central Asia. She wrote her thesis on the “customization” of law in Kyrgyzstan (Martin-Luther-University 2009). This investigation revealed how her informants in rural Kyrgyzstan invoked the purported stability of customary law (salt) while situationally incorporating state law, shari’a and international norms into this legal repertoire, as a practical means and a justifiable claim to order their ever-changing lives.
Her master’s thesis Law in transformation: The rhetoric of the constitutional reform in Kyrgyzstan (Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen 2004) was based on field research in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. It critically challenged the then-ubiquitous concept of “transformation” after the demise of the Soviet Union, and was based on participant observation among legal scholars, judges and lawyers during the country’s nationwide constitutional referendum in 2003.
She has published on legal pluralism, the state, authority, constitutional politics, activism, descent and oral history. Her recent book publications include The Force of Custom. Law and the Ordering of Everyday Life in Kyrgyzstan (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016); Ethnographies of the state in Central Asia. Performing politics (co-edited with Madeleine Reeves and Johan Rasanayagam; Indiana University Press 2014); Baiyz Apanyn zhashoo tarzhymaly – The life history of Baiyz Apa (with Zemfira Inogamova; Gulchynar 2010) and Kyrgyzstan. A photoethnography of Talas (with Roman Knee; Hirmer 2007). A special issue on “Practices of traditionalization in Central Asia” (with Peter Finke) was published in Central Asian Survey in 2019.
Judith Beyer is currently a member of the International Advisory Board of the peer-reviewed journal Central Asian Survey, an associate member of the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) and a long-time editor at Allegra Lab, a widely read anthropological blog. She also serves as a country-of-origin expert in asylum claims in the UK, as an expert for the “Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Experts Directory” and is an associate member of the Swiss “Office for Conflict Research”.