Scientific Director

The tasks of the Scientific Director of the International Institute for the Sociology of Law (IISL) include overseeing the Institute’s international Master’s programme, the workshop programme and the visiting scholars programme, the relations with Basque universities, authorities, and the interested public as well as the development of the library and the Institute’s publications. Through its international activities, the IISL serves as an important hub in networking socio-legal scholarship from different world regions.

The Scientific Director is appointed by the Governing Board of the Institute upon proposal by the Board of the Research Committee on Sociology of Law (RCSL), a scientific body formed within the International Sociological Association. The Governing Board consists of Members appointed by the Basque Government as well as of Members appointed by the RCSL. The Scientific Director is selected based on an international call for applications and appointed for a period of two years each.

In the previous period, Martin Ramstedt served as Scientific Director, and he will still continue as a member of the Governing Board of the Institute for two years. In September 2022, he was followed by Sabine Frerichs as incoming Scientific Director.

A complete list of former Scientific Directors of the Institute includes:

  • André-Jean Arnaud, 1988-1991
  • Paavo Uusitalo, 1991-1992
  • Rogelio Pérez Perdomo, 1992-1993
  • Roberto Bergalli, 1993-1995
  • Johannes Feest, 1995-1997
  • Jacek Kurczewski, 1997-1998
  • Pierre Guibentif, 1998-2000
  • William Felstiner, 2000-2002
  • Manuel Calvo-García, 2002-2003
  • Volkmar Gessner, 2003-2005
  • Joxerramon Bengoetxea, 2005-2007
  • Carlos Lista, 2007-2009
  • Sol Picciotto, 2009-2011
  • Angela Melville, 2011-2013
  • Adam Czarnota, 2013-2016
  • Vincenzo Ferrari, 2016-2018
  • Noé Cornago, 2018-2020
  • Martin Ramstedt, 2020-2022.

Sabine Frerichs: short biography

Sabine Frerichs (Scientific Director September 2022-September 2024)

Sabine Frerichs (Scientific Director, September 2022-September 2024).

Sabine Frerichs has been appointed Scientific Director of the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in the academic years 2022-23 and 2023-24. She will serve at the same time as Research Professor at Ikerbasque, the Basque Foundation for Science, and be affiliated with the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

She is on leave from the Vienna University of Business and Economics, Austria, where she is Professor of Economic Sociology and acted as Head of the Institute for Sociology and Social Research. Before moving to Vienna, she was Assistant Professor (tenure-track) in Law and Adjunct Professor (Title of Docent) in Sociology of Law at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

She completed her doctorate (Dr. rer. pol.) as well as her professoral qualification (Habilitation) at the University of Bamberg, Germany. While she earned her academic degrees in sociology, her studies, teaching and research have from the outset been shaped by an interdisciplinary orientation, which cuts across economics, political science, and law.

In the academic year 2018-19, she was Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture” at the University of Bonn, Germany. In the year 2012, she was Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She visited Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic; York University, Toronto, Canada; and Cairo University, Egypt for shorter-term guest lectureships or research stays.

Research Profile

My research and teaching in the socio-legal field is marked by an interdisciplinary approach, which seeks to articulate perspectives from sociology, law and economics. However, the main contribution is sociological, emphasising the institutional contexts in which law develops.

My research profile in the sociology of law can be organised along three main lines of research, which are represented in my writings as well as in ongoing work.

Scientific Outlook

As an interdisciplinary sociologist, my approach is to start from the core of sociology, with its theories, methods and pre-analytical visions, but to reach out far beyond its conventional boundary lines.

Linking scholarship across disciplines helps to keep the sociology of law in the game where other fields are gaining popularity. In my view, the sociology of law is uniquely positioned in the academic division of labour to provide forms of knowledge that are missing or tend to be sidelined in legal and economic scholarship.

In sociology, instrumental knowledge typically draws on different assumptions, explanatory frameworks and predictions and often has different policy implications than the models and blueprints used in neighbouring disciplines. Moreover, as a science of culture, sociology is also a source of reflexive knowledge, which includes alternative guiding ideas, conceptual foundations, narratives, and value orientations and challenges what is usually taken for granted.

In short, the sociology of law has a critical function with regard to prevailing forms of knowledge, be it on law, the economy, or the social order, within and outside academia.

Against this backdrop of broadening legal and economic wisdom, a concrete aim of my work at the Institute is to interconnect recent initiatives promoting research and teaching in “law and political economy” with complementary frameworks and capacities in the sociology of law.