Honoring Science of the Highest Caliber in Germany

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize

On March 13, 2019, Prof Dr Ayelet Shachar, Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, was awarded the prestigious Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize.

The Leibniz Prize is Germany’s highest and most prestigious research award. Honoring researchers who have distinguished themselves with extraordinary academic achievements, it offers them impetus to continue to produce outstanding work in the future. In order to fulfill the expectations associated with the award, Leibniz prizewinners receive a generous sum of money. No strings attached: Completely waived of any administrative constraints, they are free to use these funds as they see fit to further the progress of their research. 

The Leibniz Prize Laureates 2019

From left to right: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Wessling, Dr. Melina Schuh, Prof. Dr. Michèle Tertilt, Prof. Dr. Ayelet Shachar, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wernsdorfer, Federal Minister Anja Karliczek, Prof. Dr. Hans-Reimer Rodewald, Prof. Dr. Rupert Huber, Prof. Dr. Brenda Schulman, die Bremer Wissenschaftssenatorin Eva Quante-Brandt, Prof. Dr. Andreas Reckwitz, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sami Haddadin und DFG-Präsident Prof. Dr. Peter Strohschneider

From left to right: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Wessling, Dr. Melina Schuh, Prof. Dr. Michèle Tertilt, Prof. Dr. Ayelet Shachar, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wernsdorfer, Federal Minister Anja Karliczek, Prof. Dr. Hans-Reimer Rodewald, Prof. Dr. Rupert Huber, Prof. Dr. Brenda Schulman, die Bremer Wissenschaftssenatorin Eva Quante-Brandt, Prof. Dr. Andreas Reckwitz, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sami Haddadin und DFG-Präsident Prof. Dr. Peter Strohschneider

A Tribute to Laureate Ayelet Shachar

Prof Ayelet Shachar is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany

Prof Ayelet Shachar is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany

Leipzig Prize Laudatio for Prof Ayelet Shachar

Given by DFG President Strohschneider

Video Portrait Shachar © DFG

In the USA, the political dispute over the construction of a wall to Mexico has become an all-or-nothing issue. In Europe, too, border security issues are increasingly being discussed and facts relating to them have long since been created outside of our borders. And although border issues initially appear to be clearly defined local problems, in individual cases they do have meaning much beyond that. Ayelet Shachar aptly calls the coincidence of being born on one or the other side of border a birthright lottery, thus the title of her second book "The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality" (2009). Not only was this book chosen as an ‘International Ethics Notable Book’ in 2010, it also cemented Shachar’s leading role in multidisciplinary research on global justice and migration.

Her first book “Multicultural Jurisdictions: Cultural Differences and Women’s Rights” attained worldwide resonance. In this work, Shachar deals with the status of women in religious minorities and analyzes the tensions between traditions, religious diversity and the general norm of gender equality. The book was awarded the ‘Best First Book Award’ of the American Political Science Association in the Foundation of Political Theory Section.  

Shachar’s work is characterized by nuanced deliberations of justice that make it internationally relevant. Contrary to the often narrow orientation of legal studies towards current, mostly national law, Shachar has exemplarily implemented the interdisciplinary and transnational orientation that has been increasingly demanded of legal research. Due to the fruitful combination of different perspectives and bodies of knowledge, her publications have gained great influence - not only worldwide, but also in varying fields such as gender studies, philosophy and political science.

Shachar's extraordinary intuition for selecting amongst contemporary issues, those requiring further scientific scrutiny and her ability to do this with methodical foresight, make her an exceptional researcher, both in the German research landscape and internationally.

She studied politics and law at Tel Aviv University and earned her doctorate in 1997 at Yale Law School in the USA. She subsequently held various teaching positions at the University of Toronto, where she was appointed the Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Multiculturalism in 2007. Since 2015, she has been Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen (MPI MMG). 

Prof Strohscheider ended the Laudatio on a personal note: “I am delighted to honor you with the Leibniz Prize. May this award enable you to continue finding ways to demonstrate to the societies we live in, the tensions and contradictions that exist within them, and the ways to deal with them in a civilized manner. Congratulations”.


We at the MPI MMG would also like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Ayelet! We are proud to work for and alongside such an eminent scholar and corroborate on the fruits of her future research.     

Musical Accompaniment: Wind Quintet 5 Beaufort

Musical Accompaniment: Wind Quintet 5 Beaufort

The Leibniz Prize Official Awards Ceremony

Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

March 13, 2019

DFG President Prof Strohschneider

DFG President Prof Strohschneider

The President of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Prof Peter Strohschneider warmly welcomed the audience and the awardees, whom he praised as world-class scholars representing the highest level of individual scientific achievement. He masterfully presided over the 3-hour award ceremony, concisely and elegantly presenting the top-level achievements of each of the Leibniz Prize Laureates.

Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek

Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek

“The awarding of the Leibniz Prize is a celebration of the freedom of scholarship. It is also a festival of scientific excellence.  Excellence and freedom of science go hand in hand." On the eve of celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Basic Law in May, the Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek, called for the need to renew faith in science and in democracy. In opening a unique space of scientific freedom, the Leibniz Prize stands for the freedom of science, which is a cornerstone of democracy. "I want scientists who interfere," she said, by explaining and seeking dialogue. The credibility of science is the prerequisite for it to remain a viable pillar of our democracy.

Bremen’s State Minister of Science Prof Quante-Brandt

Bremen’s State Minister of Science Prof Quante-Brandt

Prof Eva Quante-Brandt, Bremen’s State Minister of Science and the Chairperson of the Joint Science Conference, underlined the grandeur of the Leibniz Prize: its “international appeal and the reputation associated with it are high. The fact that seven Nobel Laureates later emerged from the circle of those who have been awarded the prize speaks for the demanding selection procedure”. Quante-Brandt expressed her pleasure that four women are amongst the recipients in 2019, highlighting the importance of gender equality and equal opportunities in science. She also spoke about the freedom of research that is associated with the Leibniz Prize; such freedom is unfortunately not as self-evident as it should be worldwide. Quante-Brandt wished for the Laureates that the Leibniz Prize would be the foundation stone for essential research results: “If the prize money enables you to carry out research free of financial constraints that would otherwise not have been possible to the same extent, then the goal has been achieved”.

Prof Dr-Ing Sami Haddadin

Prof Dr-Ing Sami Haddadin

Robotics Scholar and Leibniz Laureate Prof Sami Haddadin spoke on behalf of all of the prizewinners. He drew attention to the inherent incongruence between the big questions that scholars ask, and the necessary but limited means and time available to address them. The Leibniz Prize, he said, would enable him and the other Laureates to bridge this incongruence: “over a period of seven years, we will pursue the things that concern us with emphasis, curiosity, but also with unbridled creativity”.


Link to the original press release: Leibniz Prizewinner 2019 Ayelet Shachar

For more information on Ayelet Shachar’s work, visit: The MPI MMG Department of Ethics, Law and Poltics.

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25 May 2018

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