Scientific Director

Martin Ramstedt (Scientific Director September 2020-September 2022)

Martin Ramstedt (Scientific Director, September 2020-September 2022).

Dr Martin Ramstedt is a research professor of Ikerbasque/Basque Foundation for Science ( and took office as the new Scientific Director of the Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law on September 1, 2020.

Ramstedt holds a Dr phil. degree in social and cultural anthropology from Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, where he also studied prehistory, Indian studies and social psychology, and a Dr phil. habil. degree from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany (venia legendi in social and cultural anthropology). He is one of two chief editors of the Amsterdam University Press (AUP) monograph series “Religion and Society in Asia” (, coordinator of the International Sociological Association (ISA) Research Committee for the Sociology of Law (RCSL) Working Group “Legal Pluralism (LP)” (link to the ISA RCSL Newsletter 2/2020), global thematic coordinator for anthropological and postcolonial approaches in the Global Access to Justice project (, an associate of the “Law and Anthropology” Department at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Social Anthropology ( in Halle, Germany, a licensed mediator of the German Association of Mediators (Bundesverband Mediation e.V.), and a coach.

His research interests currently revolve around contemporary global legal pluralism, ADR and restorative justice, the legal fixation of “the other” in colonial law, and social movements as well as scholarly paradigms dedicated to the decolonization of both national and international law.

Ramstedt has published widely on Indonesian religious politics and the accommodation of Islamic, Hindu-Balinese and other ethnic customary law norms and institutions in Indonesian state law; the cultural translation of law; and the politics and poetics of transnational Hindu and Buddhist networks in Asia (link to Ramstedt’s list of publications). For an opportunity to download some of Ramstedt’s publications, please refer to

As Scientific Director of the IISL, he first of all seeks to expand the academic network of the institute to new Asian and African partners, without neglecting the institute’s established relation with academic institutions and colleagues in Europe, Australia and Latin America. This endeavor also informs Ramstedt’s view on the selection of IISL workshops and the publication policies for the institute’s own publication series. He would like to see more IISL workshops and publications organized and guest-edited by colleagues from non-Western countries. Since discussions on socio-legal topics are often very relevant to fora outside the IISL Master of the Sociology of Law program and the RCSL scholarly network, in which the IISL is embedded, Ramstedt supports the rapid development of new digital workshop formats as well as the digitalization of single socio-legal/law & society courses designed to support an outreach to academic and professional audiences in the Basque Country and beyond.

Academic career

From 1997 to 2000, Martin Ramstedt was European Science Foundation (ESF) research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden, the Netherlands, and as such also affiliated with the Nordic Institute for Asian Studies in Copenhagen, Denmark. His ERF-funded research focused on the religious policies of the Indonesian state during the “Old Order” and “New Order” regimes, which sought to implement as well as to contain the actualization of central norms of the Indonesian basic law in follow-up legislation. He paid particular attention to the impact of these policies on the multi-ethnic Indonesian Hindu community. After an additional senior fellowship at the IIAS, dedicated to the writing up of a major part of his ERF research results, he became a researcher at the Meertens Institute, a Royal Netherlands Academy of Science institute for the anthropology of the Netherlands in Amsterdam in 2001. Here, his five year-long research centered on new forms of religiosity in contemporary Dutch society. A special research strand was geared towards an analysis of various “popular” efforts of translating European and Asian mystic traditions into concepts, benchmarks and tools of modern management trainings in the Netherlands. Alongside his research at the Meertens Institute, Ramstedt entered into collaboration with Coen J. G. Holtzappel, reader at the Non-Western Sociology Department, Leiden University, to monitor the decentralization process that followed from the Indonesian law reform in the wake of the rapid decline and final demise of Soeharto’s “New Order” regime caused by the 1997/8 Asia Crisis. This research focus brought Ramstedt to the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale), Germany, in 2006, where he joined as a senior research fellow the Project Group “Legal Pluralism” (PGLP), headed by Franz and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann. He remained a member of the PGLP until the termination of the project in 2012, co-organizing the final international PGLP conference on “Temporalities of Law”. The proceedings of this conference were published in the first issue of Vol. 46 of the Journal Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law in 2014, guest-edited by Keebet von Benda-Beckmann, Martin Ramstedt and Melanie Wiber after the sudden passing of Franz von Benda-Beckmann at the beginning of 2013.

The successful conclusion of the PGLP was succeeded by the opening of a full-fledged Law & Anthropology Department, to which Belgian jurist and anthropologist Marie-Claire Foblets was appointed Director. Ramstedt stayed on at the department as a senior research fellow until 2014, when he received a fellowship at the Käte Hamburger Centre of Advanced Studies “Law as Culture”, Bonn University, directed by the German jurist and sociologist Werner Gephart. There, he finished writing the final framework for his cumulative habilitation thesis on the “Social Construction of ‘Hinduism’ in Bali and Beyond: Religion, Law, and Ethno-Religious Identity Politics in Modern Indonesia”. Earning the title of Dr phil. habil. from Halle University in 2015, he became a fellow at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden, where he updated his research on the politics and poetics of Hinduism and Buddhism in post-colonial Indonesia. In the same year, he was appointed as one of two chief editors of the Amsterdam University Press (AUP) monograph series “Religion and Society in Asia”, a function he still holds today. One of his own publications resulting from his stay at the KITLV was the chapter on Hinduism and Buddhism in the 2018 Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Indonesia, edited by American anthropologist and scholar of Islam in Indonesia Robert W. Hefner. From early 2016 to early 2017, Ramstedt was a senior research fellow at the Humanities Centre of Advanced Studies (HCAS) “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” at Leipzig University, directed by Monika Wohlrab-Sahr and Christoph Kleine. His research at HCAS was dedicated to the changing conceptual boundaries between ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious” of the postcolonial Indonesian state and the specific socio-political ramifications of these boundaries in Indonesian society at large. Besides, he started to investigate emergent spheres of the secular in colonial Java. A variety of publications have resulted from both strands of research.

From 2017 to 2019, he was deputy professor for social and cultural anthropology as well as comparative cultural sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. Before and after, he was associate professor at the same faculty. In Halle, Ramstedt taught a variety of BA and MA courses, including research methodology and legal anthropology. In the Netherlands, he had lectured widely on different topics in the fields of social and cultural anthropology and Asian studies at a number of Dutch universities, including Leiden University, Nijmegen University, the University of Amsterdam, and the University of Utrecht. Lastly, from 2013 to 2016, he served as professor for the course of Law & Anthropology in the IISL Master of the Sociology of Law program.

Teaching and Research at the IISL

Ramstedt is particularly interested in developing a stronger focus on the comparative study of the interrelatedness and interaction of different state and non-state legal orders in our world today. Contemporary transnational legal pluralism is marked by a totality of different private and official sites of law-making, which together form an inchoate global network of potentially cooperating and frequently competing law-making bodies that impact directly and indirectly on nation states and sub-state communities at large.

In order to give this new focus of the IISL a place within the wider RSCL research program, Ramstedt initiated a new RCSL Working Group on “Legal Pluralism” (see RCSL Newsletter 20/3). Within the framework of this new working group, Ramstedt successfully applied for an International Research Collaborative (IRC) Grant from the Law and Society Association (LSA) together with Prof. em. Dr Ulrike Schultz (President of the RCSL) and Prof. Dr Winifried W. Kamau (Dept. of Private Law, School of Law, University of Nairobi, Kenia). This grant will serve to bring together in a variety of meetings diverse international scholars working on the topic of “Gender in Customary/Indigenous Law and Proceedings”. In their conversations, they are going to zoom in on the law production in predominantly postcolonial societies, in which customary law has been reorganized through the filter of state law and international Human Rights. The dominant “modernist” narrative indiscriminately assumes that women are victims of custom and culture. This assumption will be investigated, tested, and possibly qualified on the basis of empirical research on the ground. Some scholars have argued that custom and culture can be a source of entitlement as well as empowerment for women, and that women do navigate plural legal orders, in order to exercise agency in shaping and influencing the content and procedures of indigenous or customary law. Starting from the lived realities of women in indigenous or customary law communities, this particular IRC network of researchers will analyze how these realities shape women’s interaction with plural legal systems.