Image of Julie Billaud


Associate professor, Anthropology and sociology
Spoken languages
French, English
Areas of expertise
  • Armed conflicts, violence
  • Development, Aid policies
  • Gender, women and public policies
  • Globalisation
  • Governance
  • Human rights
  • Humanitarian action
  • International organisations, UN
Geographical Region of Expertise
  • Central Asia


PhD from University of Sussex and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
Julie Billaud is a legal and political anthropologist who has held positions in the United Kingdom (University of Sussex), France (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) and Germany (Humboldt University and Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) prior to joining the Graduate Institute in 2019. She is the author of Kabul Carnival: Gender Politics in Postwar Afghanistan (2015, Pennsylvania University Press). The book is an ethnographic study of the “reconstruction process” in post 9/11 Afghanistan carried out among various groups of women targeted by “empowerment” projects. It focuses on the politics of humanitarianism and legal reform, unpacking the tensions and contradictions that arise when competing understandings of “democracy” and “human rights” confront each other in a global humanitarian theater.

After her PhD, she redirected her attention to Islam in Europe and the contemporary transformations of the European public sphere through its encounter with Islamic difference. Based on fieldwork in London in shariah councils, law firms specialising in Islamic law, the 2013 World Islamic Economic Forum, and the flourishing Muslim marriage industry, the research documents everyday practices of Islamic law in Britain. It highlights how state interventions participate in contradictory ways in the making of a legal field, which is both embraced for its commercial potential and contested due to its supposed discrimination against women. More generally, the study explores notions of morality, citizenship and multiculturalism from the standpoint of these emerging religious claims.

More recently, she collaborated with Jane Cowan (University of Sussex) on an ethnographic study of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism of human rights monitoring within the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Drawing inspiration from the anthropological literature on international organisations, bureaucracy and audit cultures, the study examines the interactions, knowledge practices, institutional codes and norms, and documentation processes embedded in this complex assemblage of administrative procedures, technologies and transnational actors.

From February 2016 until February 2018, she was hired by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva to carry out an ethnographic study of its “diplomatic culture”. The fieldwork for this research was conducted at the headquarters in Geneva and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Georgia/Abkhazia, Israel-Palestine and Northern Ireland. The study explores the negotiations practices of delegates who seek to implement the mandate of the ICRC as “guardian of the Geneva conventions”. Focusing on protection delegates’ working practices, moral dilemmas and affects, it seeks to unpack the transformations of professional cultures and subjectivities triggered by increasing administrative pressures related to impact measurement and evidence-based programming.

At the Institute, Professor Billaud teaches Human Rights and the Politics of Culture (ANSO118) and Comparatives Humanitarianism: Anthropological Perspective (DE149).

Julie is the co-founder and one of the editors of Allegra Lab.




Special issues

  • February 2020 (with Jane Cowan) ‘The Bureaucratization of Utopia: Ethics, Affects and Subjectivities in International Governance Processes’. Special issue of Anthropologie Sociale/Social Anthropology.  Vol 28(1).
  • December 2017. ‘Introduction’. Special issue of Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions on “La circulation du référentiel islamique en Europe: Espace public, éthique ordinaire et economies morales”. Vol 179(4).

Journal articles (peer reviewed):

  • 2021 (Septembre). Gender and Political Violence. Oxford Bibliographies. (Co-written with Lucia Direnberger)
  • February 2020. Masters of Disorder: Rituals of Communication and Monitoring at the International Committee of the Red Cross. Special issue of Anthropologie Sociale/Social Anthropology ’The Bureaucratisation of Utopia’. Vol 28(1). Winner of the Special Mention of the International Geneva Award 2020 (SNIS).
  • 2019 (2018). Marriage shariah style: Everyday Practices of Islamic Morality in England. Contemporary Islam. Vol 13(2). First online
  • December 2017. ‘Mariage chariah style: Pratiques quotidiennes de l’éthique islamique en Angleterre’. Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions. Special issue on ‘La circulation du référentiel islamique en Europe’. Vol 179(4).
  • 2016. “Afterword: A Post-Human Rights Anthropology of Human Rights”. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review Online, November 2016.
  • 2016. No Wonder! Kingship and the Every Day at the Max Planck Society. Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. Vol 6(1).
  • 2016. Snapshots of British Islam: Exploring Self, identity and the Good Ethical Life in the Global Megalopolis. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Vol 45(5).
  • 2015. Between learning and Schooling: The Politics of Human Rights Monitoring at the Universal Periodic Review”. Third World Quarterly. (With Jane Cowan).Vol 36(6). Special issue edited by Louiza Odysseos and Anna Selmeczi: ‘The Power of Rights and/or the Rights of Power in Global Politics’.
  • 2013. Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism. French Culture, Politics and Society (with Julie Castro). Volume 31(2).
  • 2012 (June). Suicidal Performances: Voicing Discontent in a Girls’ Dormitory in Kabul. Culture, Medicine, Psychiatry. Volume 36(2). Special issue ‘ethnographies of suicide’
  • 2012 (June). The Making of Modern Afghanistan: Reconstruction, Transnational Governance and Gender Politics in the New Islamic Republic. Anthropology of the Middle East. Volume 7(1). Special issue ‘ethnographies of Afghanistan’.
  • 2009 (November). Visible under the Veil: Performance, Veiling and Agency in an Islamic public space. Journal of International Women’s Studies. Volume 11(1). Special issue ‘Women in Islam’.


  • 2012. L’Islam d’Occident. Introduction à l’étude des musulmans des sociétés occidentales. Rachid Id Yassine. Perpignan. Editions Halfa. 

Chapters in collective books:

  • 2020. “Documents”, “Postwar reconstruction”, “Gender empowerment” in Humanitarianism: Keywords. Antonio De Lauri (Eds). Brill.
  • 2019. Political Awakening. International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Hilary Calan (eds). Wiley.
  • 2016. « The ‘Public’ Character of the Universal Periodic Review : Contested Concept and Methodological Challenge ». (with Jane Cowan). In Palaces of Hope : The Anthropology of Global Institutions. Ronald Niezen and Maria Sapignoli (dir.). Cambridge University Press (sous contrat). 20 pages.
  • 2015. ‘Humanitarian Theater: The Ordinary and the Carnivalesque in Afghanistan’. (co-written with Antonio De Lauri). In The Politics of Humanitarianism: Power, Ideology, Aid. Antonio de Lauri (eds). London. I.B. Tauris.
  • 2015. ‘Cosmetics, Fashion and Moral Panics: the Politics and Ethics of Beauty in a Girls’ Dormitory in Kabul’. In Asian Muslim Women: Globalization and Local Realities. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh (eds). SUNY Press.
  • 2014. ‘Keepers of the 'truth': Producing 'transparent' documents for the Universal Periodic Review’. In Human Rights and the Universal Periodic Review: Rituals and Ritualism. Hilary Charlesworth and Emma Larking (eds). Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2014. ‘Arrêts sur image sur l’islam britannique.’ In En-quête d’Islam en Europe. Göle, N (Ed). Perpignan. Editions Halfa.
  • 2014. ‘A Simple Way of Getting to Paradise’: Ethics and Affects in British Shari’ah Councils. In Islam and Public Controversy in Europe. Göle, N (Ed). London. Ashgate.
  • 2011. ‘Islamic Difference and the Return of Feminist Universalism’ in European Multiculturalism(s): Cultural, Religious and Ethnic Challenges. Tryandifillidou, A,. Modood, T., and Meer, N. (eds). University of Edinburg Press. Emilie books (with Nilüfer Göle).

     Public outreach:

    Book reviews 

    • 2021 (Septembre). Sara Meg Davis. The Uncounted: Data Politics in Global Health. Cambridge University Press. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.
    • 2017 (May). Valdinir Nalivkin, Maria Nalivkina (Edited by Marianne Kamp). Muslim Women of the Fergana Valley: A 19th Century Ethnography of Central Asia. Indiana University Press. H-Net Society for the Anthropology of Europe.
    • 2013 (September). Laura Nader. Culture and Dignity. Dialogues Between the Middle East and the West. Wiley-Blackwell. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. Volume 13 (2).
    • 2008 (September). Elaheh Rostami Povey, Afghan Women: Identity and Invasion. London: Zed Books, 2007. Feminist Theory. Vol 9 (3). 
    Julie BILLAUD
    Julie BILLAUD

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