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Michael G. PeletzSamuel Candler Dobbs Professor

Professor Peletz is currently not accepting new graduate students.


  • PhD, University of Michigan, 1983



  • Social and cultural theory
  • Law, discipline, and social justice
  • Islam and religious change
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Cultural politics of modernity
  • Historical anthropology
  • Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Pacific Rim, the Muslim world

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 social justice; and the cultural politics of religion -- especially Islam -- and modernity, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Muslim world. He has done extensive fieldwork in Malaysia; his research and teaching interests have also involved travel to Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Netherlands, the UK, and elsewhere.

Professor Peletz's most recent book, Sharia Transformations: Cultural Politics and the Rebranding of an Islamic Judiciary, was published by the University of California Press in 2020. The book deals with processes of bureaucratization, rationalization, corporatization, and Islamization in Malaysia's cultural and political fields since the late 1970s. It also addresses relevant comparative data from Indonesia and Egypt and some of their theoretical implications. Important themes the book engages include whether women are getting more justice than in earlier decades, and why neoliberalism commonly goes hand-in-hand both with a punitive turn in legal realms and more expansive cultural-political arenas, and with developments of a pastoral nature.

Professor Peletz's earlier books have focused on gender, sexuality, and body politics across Asia (Peletz 2011/2017), 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). His 2009 book, Gender Pluralism: Southeast Asia Since Early Modern Times 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 has served as chair or member of doctoral dissertation committees for graduate students who have done fieldwork in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Oman, Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco, Kenya, and Germany. He welcomes the opportunity to continue his engagements with graduate students working in diverse locales.