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Dr. Thomas Scheffer


Thomas Scheffer studied Sociology and received his Phd. for his work on the German Asylum Procedure. He is micro-sociologist, ethnographer, and conducted various studies of work. His interests range from concepts on temporality, the role of communication media in legal and political institutions to analytical ethnography.

Scheffer has been the director of the Emmy-Noether group "comparative micro-sociology of criminal procedures". In 2008, he became the spokesperson of the German sociology of law in the DGS. In 2009, he was fellow at the Centre for Interdisziplinary Studies (ZiF), Bielefeld University. Currently, he teaches and studies politcal ethnography as a Heisenberg-scholar at the Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University in Berlin.

His record of publication includes books and journal articles on legal and political culture, on welfare & migration, on various discourse practices, and on ethnographic and qualitiative methods. He teaches courses in social theory, methods, and legal/political anthropology.

Contact: office 0049 (0)30 2093-3715 -

List of Publications

Curriculum Vitae


Professional Education


1986 - 1989

Bank clerk at the Kreissparkasse Herford


Studies and Degrees


1990 – 1995

Sociology at Bielefeld University


Dissertation on an Eastern German Foreigners’ Office:


Passed with distinction („Mit Auszeichnung“), The Institute for Sociology at Bielefeld University

1995 – 1998

PhD Project on the Asylum Seeking Process in Germany, a multi-sited ethnography


Doctoral Thesis:

„Asylgewährung. Eine ethnographische Verfahrensanalyse“

Passed with distinction („Mit Auszeichnung“), supervisors: Karin Knorr Cetina and Stefan Hirschauer, The Institute for Sociology at Bielefeld University


Applied Sociology


1998 - 1999

Off-the-job-training: „Migration und ihre Auswirkungen“ for Police Officers at the Polizeifortbildungsinstitut ‚Carl Severing’ Münster (PFI)

1999 – 2000

Ethnographic Evaluation of the Reorganisation Project „Umbau der Hilfen zur Erziehung“ at Youth Welfare Office, municipality of Stuttgart




01.01 – 12.02

Research Associate at the University of Lancaster, The Institute for Sociology, Centre for Science Studies

02.03 – 8.09

Research Director of the Emmy-Noether Research Group

„Comparative Micro-Sociology of Criminal Procedures“

at the Collaborative Research Unit „Performative Cultures“ (SFB 447) at the FU Berlin

10.08 – 04.09 Fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), Bielefeld University (Research Group: "Case as Focus of Professional Action")





3 years Grant by the Graduate College „Migration in Europe “ at the Institute for Migration and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), University of Osnabrück


2nd Price by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation for the best social scientific Journal Article in 1997:

„Dolmetschen als Darstellungsproblem. Eine ethnographische Studie zur Rolle der Dolmetscher in Asylanhörungen“


Emmy-Noether Grant by the German Research Association (DFG)

2007 One Year Extension of the Emmy-Noether Grant by the DFG
2008 Fellow at the ZiF, Bielefeld University
2009 Heisenberg Scholarship by DFG


Professional Commitment


Since 2002

Member of the Section “Qualitative Methods” (DGS/German Sociological Association)

Since 2003

Member of the Section “Sociology of Law” (DGS)

2006 Member of the Board, Section “Sociology of Law” in the German Sociological Association (DGS)
2007 Member of the Local Organising Committee for the American Law & Society Annual Conference at the HU Berlin
2007 Member of the Research Network "Diskursanalyse", funded by DFG (German Research Foundation)
2008 Member of the Programme Committee for the 1st German-Speaking Law&Society Conference "Wie wirkt Recht?" in Luzern (Switzerland)
Since 2006 Article Reviews for Social Science Journals (Social Studies of Science, ROLSI, Public Understanding of Science, etc.)

Since 2008


Spokesperson of the Section "Socioloy of Law" (DGS)

Member of International Advisory Board of the British Journal for Criminology


New activities

Special Issue on "Law and Biography" in BIOS

Call for Abstracts/French-German Conference on “Enfermement/Freiheitsentzug

Latest Texts/Books

My ethnography on the English Crown Court procedure by BRILL

Our comparative ethnography of criminal defence work in different procedural regimes by PALGRAVE

Teaching in SS 2011

Scheffer: „Einführung in die Institutionelle Ethnographie“ Kurs in Moodle

Scheffer: „Was tun Verfahren? Eine sozialwissenschaftliche Debatte“ Kurs in Moodle

Scheffer: „Arbeitskreis politische Ethnographie“ Termine in Moodle

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