Judith Beyer’s current research project is devoted to understanding the phenomenon of statelessness and expert activism. She is carrying out multisited ethnographic fieldwork in different locations in Europe.
Her book Rethinking community in Myanmar. Practices of We-Formation among Muslims and Hindus in Urban Yangon (NIAS Press 2023 // University of Hawai’i Press forthc.) is the first anthropological monograph of Muslim and Hindu lives in contemporary Myanmar. In it, Judith Beyer introduces the concept of “we-formation” as a fundamental yet underexplored capacity of humans to relate to one another outside of and apart from demarcated ethno-religious lines and corporate groups. We-formation complements the established sociological concept of community, which suggests shared origins, beliefs, values, and belonging.
Beyer’s first monograph The Force of Custom. Law and the Ordering of Everyday Life in Kyrgyzstan (University of Pittsburgh Press 2016) developed out of her doctoral research in the Project Group Legal Pluralism (Franz and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann). Her long-term research in rural Northern Kyrgyzstan (2005-2015) was devoted to studying legal pluralism, authority and practices of social ordering. She developed the concept of the “customization” of law which reveals how her interlocutors in rural Kyrgyzstan invoke 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 community and we-formation, he state and statelessness, authority, constitutional politics, expert activism, common sense, social ordering and oral history. Her recent book publications include Rethinking community in Myanmar. Practices of We-Formation among Muslims and Hindus in Urban Yangon (NIAS Press 2023 // University of Hawai’i Press forthc.); 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).