Michael G. Peletz


Office: 220 Anthropology

Phone: 404-727-0484

Email: mpeletz@emory.edu


  • PhD, University of Michigan, 1983



  • Social and cultural theory
  • Gender/sexuality
  • Law, discipline, and disorder
  • Islam, Islamic law, Islamization
  • Cultural politics of modernity
  • Malaysia, Southeast Asia and Pacific Rim

Michael G. Peletz joined Emory in 2006 and served as Chair of the Department from 2009 to 2012. His teaching and research interests focus on social and cultural theory; gender and sexual diversity; law, discipline, and disorder; and the cultural politics of religion -- especially Islam -- and modernity, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim. He has done extensive fieldwork in Malaysia; his research and teaching interests have also involved travel to Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, the Netherlands, and the UK.

Professor Peletz’s recent books have focused on gender, sexuality, and body politics across Asia (Peletz 2007), and on the ways that Islamic courts in Malaysia are involved in struggles to define the role of Islam with respect to the maintenance of national sovereignty and variously construed projects of modernity and civil society in an age of globalization (Peletz 2002).

Professor Peletz’s newest book, Gender Pluralism: Southeast Asia Since Early Modern Times (2009), was designated by the journal Choice as an “Outstanding Academic Title, 2009”. The book examines three big ideas — difference, legitimacy, and pluralism -- and is chiefly concerned with how people construe and deal with variation among fellow human beings. Why under certain circumstances do people embrace even sanctify differences, or at least begrudgingly tolerate them, and why in other contexts are people less receptive to difference, sometimes overtly hostile to it and bent on its eradication? What are the cultural and political conditions conducive to the positive valorization and acceptance of difference? And, conversely, what conditions undermine or erode such positive views and acceptance? Taking as its point of departure the prevalence of transgendered ritual specialists and the prestige accorded them throughout much of Southeast Asia’s history, the book examines pluralism in gendered fields and domains in Southeast Asia since the early modern era, which historians and anthropologists of the region commonly define as the period extending roughly from the 15th to the 18th centuries.

Professor Peletz is currently working on a new book, tentatively entitled Syariah Transformations, which deals with processes of bureaucratization, rationalization, corporatization, and Islamization in Malaysia's Islamic judiciary and in Malaysian cultural and political fields more generally; the book will also address relevant comparative data from Indonesia and Egypt and some of their theoretical and other implications.