Postdoc Positions in new Max-Planck Research Group "AIming Toward the Future: Policing, Governance, and Artificial Intelligence"

The new Max-Planck research group “AIming Toward the Future: Policing, Governance, and Artificial Intelligence” is looking for highly qualified and motivated candidates for Postdoctoral positions (3 years) starting 1 April 2020.

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The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology is one of the leading centres for research in social anthropology. Common to all research projects at the Max Planck Institute is the comparative analysis of social change; it is primarily in this domain that its researchers contribute to anthropological theory, though many programmes also have applied significance and political topicality.

AIming Toward the Future” is a project led by Dr. Maria Sapignoli that will examine the rapidly increasing use of big data, digital technologies, and artificial intelligence technologies in policing and governance, present and future. The research team will investigate how these technologies are being developed and applied in the context of law enforcement, extending to the involvement of the private sector in criminal justice. The study will have two interconnected research foci, both ethnographically-founded and comparative in scope. The first will look at how the machine-learning technologies employed by law enforcement officials play out on the ground, the second at the conceptualization, creation, and implementation of those technologies. The research group seeks to shed light, both empirical and theoretical, on the effects of digital policing on social inequality, law, and the future of criminal justice.

Candidate Profile, Essential Duties & Responsibilities
Candidates should have a strong knowledge of qualitative research methods, with proven competence in ethnographic field research. Familiarity with quantitative methods and computational social sciences will also be taken into account, as will expertise in the anthropology of policing, digital ethnography, and the study of new technologies.

Applicants should submit original research proposals, within the overall frame of the project as outlined above, relating to one or more of the following areas:

  • the anthropology of police and/or policing
  • the use and impacts of artificial intelligence in criminal justice
  • fairness, accountability and transparency (FAT) in automated decision making
  • community activism and digital technologies
  • predictive policing and surveillance
  • data justice and discrimination
  • policing platforms and “hacktivism”
  • governance by algorithms

Preference will be given to proposals that focus on South Africa, Italy, and the United States; however, other countries and regions will also be considered.

Successful candidates will be expected to work within the framework of the research group and publish their results in key academic venues. They will also be encouraged to think of creative means for communicating research outcomes to a wider public and will be required to play an active role in the organization of international conferences, workshops, and joint publication projects, collaborating with a team designed to have strong social and intercultural skills.

Postdoctoral applicants should be in possession of a Ph.D. in the social sciences (preferably anthropology and/or socio-legal studies, but also computational social science or a related discipline), or submit evidence indicating that their dissertation will be submitted before the designated starting date.

Candidates should also be fluent in the languages spoken in their respective field sites and in English, the main working language at the Max Planck Institute.

Our Offer
The postdoctoral positions (TVöD E13) will be for a duration of 3 years.

The workplace is Halle/Saale (Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany), except when undertaking field research.

The Max Planck Society strives for gender equality and diversity. It is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology offers a diverse, international, flexible and stimulating work environment, with support for training and professional development opportunities.

If you have questions regarding this position, please contact the head of the research group Dr Maria Sapignoli, at

Please submit your application electronically by 20 January 2020 following the link for vacancies on our homepage.
Interviews will be held late February- early March 2020.

Applicants should send the following documentation:

  • Cover letter- outlining your research trajectory and interest in the position (max. 700 words)
  • CV, including list of publications
  • A writing sample (e.g., a published article or full thesis chapter)
  • A summary of the Ph.D. thesis – max. 500 words
  • A summary of the proposed research project and plan (max. 1500 words). This will form a basis for discussion if the applicant is shortlisted. (It is anticipated that the selected individual research projects may have to undergo some modification to optimize the coherence of the project as a whole.)
  • Photocopies of university degrees
  • 2 letters of reference and names and contact details of 2 additional referees


Nähere Informationen

Dr Maria Sapignol

sapignoli[ at ]