Engelcke, Dörthe

Core Areas

Socio-legal studies, legal pluralism, Islamic law, authoritarianism, gender, Middle East politics

Research Agenda

I currently work on a book manuscript based on her PhD dissertation. The dissertation solves the empirical puzzle why similar regimes such as Morocco and Jordan vary in their engagement in family law reform between 1999 and 2013. The book’s central contribution is a re-thinking of family law reform as a way to analyse state-society relations rather than gender relations alone. The book proposes a novel explanation for the variations of family law reform across countries by linking these differences to varying historical legal trajectories, the impact of different legal systems, questions of political leadership, the impact of international law as well as different approaches of Islamist and secular advocacy groups.

Besides that, I currently work on a project that traces the concept of the best interest of the child in the legal system of Jordan which is part of a wider study organised and coordinated by the Max Planck Working Group on child law in Muslim countries. I am in the process of finalising a contribution on the best interest of the child in the legal system of Jordan which will be published in an edited volume on child law edited by the Max Planck Working Group.

While at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg I will begin a new research project on the role of judicial organisations in processes of change with a specific focus on the judges’ clubs in Morocco and Tunisia since 2011. This project will pick up elements of my doctoral dissertation by examining the role of judicial practitioners in processes of change. The project aims to achieve two things. Firstly, it wants to contribute to establishing a sociology of judges in the MENA region by focusing on the socio-economic background and social attitudes of judges. Secondly, it wants to contribute to the the literature on the rule of law by re-focusing previous theoretical approaches on attitudes of judicial practitioners themselves rather than on mere structural factors.


I received my PhD from St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, in 2015. For the academic year 2014/2015, I was a visiting fellow at the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School. During my PhD, I taught Middle East Politics at Oxford, and was a visiting fellow at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg.

Recent Academic Publications

  • Engelcke, Dörthe Jordan, in Encyclopaedia on Law and Religion, ed. Gerhard Robbers, Cole Durham, Brill 2016 (forthcoming).
  • Eibel, Ferdinand; Engelcke, Dörthe, Islamisten und der “Arabische Frühling” in Marokko: der Kontinuität verschrieben? [Islamists and the “Arab Spring” in Morocco: continuity instead of change?], in Faath, Sigrid, Islamische Akteure in Nordafrika, 111?31, Sankt Augustin [u.a.], Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 2012. Available at: http://www.kas.de/upload/dokumente/2012/Islamische_Akteure/Islamische_Akteure_eibl-engelcke.pdf.

Recent Publications for the General Public