Research

Judith Beyer’s new research project is devoted to understanding the phenomenon of statelessness in Europe. She is currently developing an interdisciplinary project together with legal scholars and practitioners that focuses on childhood statelessness.

Her second monograph investigates ‘community’ as a critical category. Based on long-term ethnographic research with ethno-religious minorities in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon (2013-2020), the project is among the first long-term anthropological investigations into how Muslims and Hindus deal with the legal, political, and economic changes triggered by the country’s ‘opening-up’ over the last few years. Her envisioned book Communal Sense. We-Formation and the work of community in Myanmar  critically engages with the concept of ‘community’ which is crucial in order to understand class inequalities, political subjectivities and ethno-nationalism 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 “transition” 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 Practices of traditionalization in Central Asia (with Peter Finke)  (Central Asian Survey 2019 / Routledge 2020); 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 (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).

Judith Beyer is a long-time editor at Allegra Lab, a widely read anthropological blog, a member of the International Advisory Board of the peer-reviewed journal Central Asian Survey, and an associate member of the European Network on Statelessness (ENS). She also serves as a country-of-origin expert in asylum claims in the UK.