Activity Report 2018–2020


The recruitment and qualification of early career researchers in legal history, legal theory and related disciplines is one of the Institute’s central tasks. The independent Max Planck Research Groups as well as the Research Groups and Research Fields established in the Departments offer the opportunity to carry out individual research projects integrated into the thematic and methodological context of the larger research activities and goals pursued at the Institute. With the Summer Academy for Legal History, the teaching activities of the Institute’s members at universities in Germany and beyond, as well as with the Visitors’ programme, the Institute is contributing to the formation of future generations of scholars working on fundamental aspects of law. In this context, we feel that it is important to promote gender equality and to create a working environment that helps to reconcile career and family life. Finally, as we are in the lucky position to work with researchers from all over the world, raising awareness of issues surrounding diversity has a high priority for us.

Early Career Researchers

Doctoral students

The doctoral students are employed at the Institute on the basis of a so-called support contract, which combines the guarantee of academic freedom with the security of an employment contract. These contracts generally have a term of three years, with the possibility of two six-month extensions in exceptional cases. The relative financial independence enables the PhD students to concentrate on their doctoral projects. Moreover, all doctoral students receive substantial support for research stays at archives and libraries and for participating in external conferences and professional symposia.

During the doctoral phase, research is carried out within the context of either one of the Departments’ various research projects or one of the Research Groups. This high level of integration ensures that the doctoral projects make a direct and important contribution to the profile of the individual Research Fields at the Institute. In addition to this, supervision of the doctoral students takes place in one-on-one meetings carried out on a regular basis with their supervisors at the Institute, in most cases the Directors or the Heads of the Research Groups. The Research Coordinator is also available to advise on how to organise one’s work and on individual career planning.

In summer 2018, the Institute’s supervision programme was expanded to include the establishment of an individual mentoring team and a supervision agreement between the doctoral students and supervisors. Further augmenting the abovementioned opportunities is the option of participating in the Max Planck Society’s professional development and training programmes as well as the training programme offered by the Goethe Research Academy for Early Career Researchers (GRADE), which is open to all doctoral students of the Goethe Universität.

Postdoctoral students

The Institute offers a challenging and motivating research environment to postdoctoral researchers in the history of law, legal theory and related disciplines who wish to remain in academia either for the time being or permanently after having completed their doctorate. Employ- ment as a postdoc at the Institute is for a limited duration and enables early career researchers to pursue further academic qualifications and enhance their profile. During this time, the postdocs work on an independent research project within the context of the respective Research Fields of the three Departments. They benefit from the wide range of lectures, seminars and workshops at the Institute as well as from the opportunity to organise their own events. Moreover, like the doctoral students, all postdoctoral researchers receive substantial support to enable them to under- take research stays at archives and libraries as well as for participation in external conferences and professional symposia.

As a rule, postdoctoral researchers receive an employment contract for three years, with the possibility of an extension of up to an additional three years (maximum). While there are no teaching obligations associated with employment at the Institute, postdoctoral researchers are encouraged to undertake external teaching assignments. Moreover, postdoctoral researchers are integrated into the mentoring of the doctoral students at the Institute.

International Max Planck Research School on Retaliation, Mediation and Punishment (IMPRS–REMEP)

In December 2019, the International Max Planck Research School on Retaliation, Mediation and Punishment (REMEP) ended after 12 years. This unique and interdisciplinary research and teaching network for doctoral studies was operated by the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle), the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (Freiburg) and the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (Frankfurt, local co-ordinator K. Härter) and it co-operated with university faculties in the fields of sociology, social anthropology, jurisprudence and history. The general activities included introductory courses on legal history, Summer and Winter University sessions (in which the students presented their research), and a number of workshops, conferences and publications. Regarding the scientific agenda, REMEP observed retaliation, mediation and punishment as interrelated and complementary concepts to establish, negotiate, maintain and re-gain social order, peace and human security. In this regard, REMEP was closely related to several Research Fields of the Institute, namely History of Criminal Law, Crime and Criminal Justice and Legal History of the Church, and the Cross-Cutting Theme Law and Diversity. The methodological concepts of REMEP started from the assumption of the plurality of forms in establishing and maintaining social order and sought to understand retaliation, mediation and punishment as a resource for social actors. During the reporting period, the Institute hosted three doctoral students who conducted and concluded their research projects: Karla Luzmer Escobar Hernández defended in June 2020 her dissertation on ‘Citizenship, justice and indigeneity: a History of indígena legal practices in Cauca, 1880–1938’; Raquel Razente Sirotti finished the manuscript of her dissertation ‘Within the law: criminal law and political repression in Brazil (1889–1930)’; and Laila Scheuch is concluding her study on ‘The regulation of marital conflicts on the Left Bank of the Rhine and in France between 1798 and 1814’.

Joint research activities yielded the recently published collected volume On Mediation. Historical, legal, anthropological & international perspectives [Härter, Hillemanns, Schlee, On Mediation, 2020]. Following the basic research design of REMEP, the book explores mediation and related practices of alternative conflict regulation through an interdisciplinary approach. Eleven chapters observe historical and current relations between mediation and the criminal justice system, provide anthropological perspectives and case studies and explore mediation and arbitration in international arenas. The result verifies the general approach of REMEP: the interplay and blurred boundaries between extrajudicial and judicial conflict resolution and the ways conflicts and disputes are addressed within, beyond, across or even independently from state legal orders and institutions.

Equal Opportunities

The Institute is committed to promoting gender equality and to creating a working environment free of discrimination in which all employees, regardless of their gender, nationality, ethnic or cultural background, religion, disabilities, age or sexual orientation, can develop their full potential.

To do so, the Institute has implemented a number of targeted local measures and set itself goals for future development. It also encourages and supports initiatives by its staff and facilitates its employees’ participation in MPS-wide measures and activities. During the reporting period, two grassroots initiatives in the area of equal opportunities were founded and organised by employees at the Institute: the Diversity Group and the Minerva LAW Network. Both have the full support of the Institute and will be discussed in more detail below.

The Directors of the Institute are committed to promoting awareness of issues relating to equal opportunities and to reinforcing such awareness at all levels. We understand a contemporary gender equality policy to consist of the firm implementation of mechanisms that allow for career perspectives to be developed and successfully realised at the Institute. The Gender Equality Officer has an established place in the process of recruiting and selecting new staff. She has access to all applications via the Institute’s online applications portal at an early stage and is given the opportunity to participate as an observer in all job interviews. She is also informed of relevant personnel matters at the same time as the Works Council.

The Institute’s Gender Equality Plan for 2018–2020 identified three main fields of action: the reconciliation of career and family life, the promotion of career advancement and the raising of gender awareness.

Reconciliation of career and family life

The company pme Family Service GmbH has provided support to the Max Planck Society and its staff in matters of childcare, eldercare and home care since 2015. Employees at the Institute as well as, in one case in 2019, participants of its Summer Academy have used its services above all to identify childcare options for children below school age, and have reported themselves to be satisfied with the service provided.

The cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research that enables employees to take advantage of up to five places in a facility on the Riedberg campus of the Goethe Universität continued during the reporting period and was used in particular by researchers coming to the Institute from outside Germany. In future, the Institute will explore opportunities for offering childcare places closer to the Institute’s own site.

In 2019, the Institute realised its commitment in the Gender Equality Plan to create a space for baby-changing and nursing that is open to employees and to participants at the Institute’s conferences and workshops.

In order to continue recruiting excellent staff, particularly from abroad, the possibility for the partners of researchers to pursue their careers in Frankfurt is growing in importance. The Institute remains an active member of the Dual Career Netzwerk für die Metropolregion Rhein-Main (DCN-MRM). This network of 29 research institutions and four private-sector companies assists the partners of qualified professionals working at one of the member organisations to find a suitable position that matches their career goals in the Rhine-Main area.

Career development and mentoring for female employees

The Institute puts great emphasis on fulfilling its responsibilities in supporting and developing its earlycareer researchers. It encourages female researchers to take part in the Max Planck Society’s measures: Institute staff took part in the Minerva FemmeNet Mentoring programme and in the SignUp! programme.

Looking beyond the Institute, in 2020 three female researchers of the Institute were among the founders of the Minerva LAW Network, an initiative funded as part of the Max Planck Law Network. The Minerva LAW Network organises regular events for female early-career researchers in law and related disciplines. The main topics of these events are career development for women in academia and beyond, and gender issues in law and in the legal professions. The Institute supports the network administratively.

During the reporting period, the Institute also supported the career development of a number of female non-scientific staff through individually tailored measures, as there are few Max Planck Society-wide programmes aimed at female employees who are not researchers. It is important that training measures are also offered to women in lower pay groups to support their professional development. The Institute would welcome more measures by the Max Planck Society to promote gender equality also for its non-scientific staff.

Gender awareness

Raising awareness is an important part of promoting gender equality. In addition, an understanding of the cognitive mechanisms of discrimination, such as unconscious bias, can help create a discrimination-free work environment also in other respects, as such mechanisms often cause stereotyping and work to the disadvantage of groups categorised by different types of factors – such as nationality or ethnic background, age, disability etc. – and not just gender.

The Institute uses gender-inclusive language in its German-language communications and calls for applications. The third gender category (diverse) now recognised by German law is also included in job adverts and can be indicated in the online application system.

The increased share of women among researchers has already been mentioned. However, growing awareness and attention being paid to issues of gender in recruitment of staff has also met with success in the area of the Service Facilities. In 2019 and 2020, the previously all-female Administration recruited male trainees, and in 2021, the previously all-male IT Department will be joined by a female member of staff. These might seem minor developments, but they actually have real impact in breaking up gender stereotypes and changing gender dynamics on the ground.


As in the MPS as a whole, which in 2018 formulated its ‘Diversity Understanding’, in the last years the Institute has increasingly paid attention to issues of diversity in the workplace. Not least due to the Institute’s ‘global’ outlook, its staff has become increasingly diverse, with 58% of researchers in 2020 originally from outside Germany.

July 2019 saw the first meeting of the Diversity Group, one of the first such groups in the Max Planck Society. Its members are drawn from different Departments, Research Groups and the Service Facilities and include the Research Coordinator, International Officer and Gender Equality Officer. The group meets regularly to discuss issues of diversity at the Institute. In 2019, the Diversity Group also organised workshops (in English and German) introducing the concept of diversity in the workplace.

The Gender Equality Officer and the Diversity Group cooperate in two new measures. The mpilhlt parents’ forum meets regularly in order to discuss the concerns of parents (and parents-to-be) at the Institute and is particularly useful for international parents who need help understanding the German childcare system. A new quarterly Gender Equality and Diversity Newsletter informs employees about equal opportunities issues and relevant funding opportunities, programmes, events and workshops.

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