Press Release 6.12.2018

Leibniz Prize 2019 for Ayelet Shachar

Ayelet Shachar, Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity (MPI MMG), has been awarded the 2019 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize for her groundbreaking work on citizenship and the legal frameworks of multicultural societies. Awarded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Leibniz Prize is Germany’s most prestigious research award, and it is endowed with up to 2.5 million EUR.

Prof. Steven Vertovec, Managing Director at the MPI MMG congratulated Shachar and commended her research, as being not only outstanding, but also highly relevant in the contemporary world: “An award of such distinction is a profound recognition of her pioneering work”. 

In an initial reaction, Shachar herself was surprised and overwhelmed: “I feel very honored and grateful in receiving this prize, and I am particularly delighted to be in the company of two other brilliant female Max Planck Directors”. For the institute, the prize acknowledges the excellence of the research being done here on the critical issues of citizenship, migration and societal diversity. The generous and highly remunerative award will help Shachar to expand and deepen her research agenda in these important areas.

Shachar is the author of Multicultural Jurisdictions: Cultural Differences and Women's Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2001), for which she won the American Political Science Association 2002 Foundations of Political Theory Section Best First Book Award. This work has inspired a new generation of thinking about how to best mitigate the tensions between gender equality and religious diversity. It has also proved influential in the real world, intervening in actual public policy and legislative debates. It has been cited extensively, most recently, by England's Archbishop of Canterbury (who described Shachar's work as "highly original and significant"), Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General, and the Supreme Court of Canada.

Shachar's work combines "big ideas" from law and political theory with innovative problem-solving and institutional design. The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2009) was named 2010 International Ethics Notable Book in recognition of its "superior scholarship and contribution to the field of international ethics." It has created a groundswell of interest among policymakers and academics alike. Located at the intersection of law, economics, and political philosophy, The Birthright Lottery crafts new legal concepts and innovative institutional designs to promote global justice, with the aim of ameliorating the most glaring opportunity inequalities that attach to this system of allocation in today's world.

Shachar is also the lead editor of the Oxford Handbook of Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2017), which received advanced praise as "the definitive source on a critical concept in political and social life. Innovative in its conception and authoritative in its execution."

Her current research focuses on the legal and ethical puzzles associated with the surge of “citizenship for sale” programmes. Shachar has also dedicated her attention to the phenomenon of “shifting borders,” whereby the once-fixed territorial border has become a moving barrier creating flexible, variable zones in which intense migration control and surveillance measures are permitted. Her new book, The Shifting Border: Legal Cartographies of Migration and Mobility addresses these challenges, offering innovative institutional and democratic responses. It will appear in the Critical Power Series, published by Manchester University Press.

Shachar has received excellence and research awards in four different countries: Canada, Germany, Israel, and the United States. She was nominated Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, Fulbright Fellow, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Princeton's Law and Public Affairs Program (LAPA), Emile Noël Senior Fellow at NYU School of Law, and the W. M. Keck Fellow in Legal Ethics and Professional Culture at Yale Law School. She has published extensively in leading law reviews, social science, and political philosophy journals, including the Yale Law Journal, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Journal of Political Philosophy, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, NYU Law Review, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Political Theory, and Perspectives on Politics.

Curriculum Vitae

Ayelet Shachar studied at Tel Aviv University, where she earned a Bachelor in Law (LL.B.) and a Bachelor in Political Science in 1993. A Master of Laws (LL.M.) (1995) and a Doctorate J.S.D. (1997) followed, both from Yale Law School. In 1999, Shachar received an appointment at Toronto University, Canada: first as Visiting Professor (1999), then as Assistant Professor (1999-2004) and Associate Professor (2004-2007). From 2007 onwards, Ayelet Shachar was Full Professor of Law, Political Science and Global Affairs, and held the Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Multiculturalism. Since 2015, she has been Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society and Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.

The Leibniz Prize

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the most important research award in Germany. The Leibniz Programme, established in 1985, aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding researchers, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative tasks, and help them employ particularly qualified early career researchers. A maximum of €2.5 million is provided per award. Prizewinners are first chosen from a slate of nominations put forward by third parties; the Joint Committee selects the actual prizewinners based on a recommendation from the Selection Committee for the Leibniz Programme.

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