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 an 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. Her doctoral researches concentrated on issues of gender, human rights and imperialism. Her book Kabul Carnival: Gender Politics in Postwar Afghanistan (2015, Pennsylvania University Press) is an ethnographic study of the “reconstruction process” in post 9/11 Afghanistan carried out among various groups of women targeted by “empowerment” programs.

Her preoccupation with gender and social ordering processes in postcolonial contexts led her to direct her attention on Islam in Europe and the transformations of the European public sphere through its encounter with Islamic difference. Based on fieldwork carried out in Britain between 2011 and 2013, notably in shariah councils and firms offering ‘shariah compliant services’, her research documents everyday practices of Islamic law, emphasizing the values, subjectivities and standards of behavior that are produced through routine interactions in these spaces.

Her more recent work examines international human rights mechanisms and humanitarian projects, focusing on intersecting processes of technocratic and programmatic changes in international organisations. Her abiding curiosity about this intersection have led her to focus on how emerging practices of ‘accountability’ and ‘transparency’ become bureaucratised and standardised and with what implications for the notion of ‘humanity’. These issues have been studied in collaboration with Jane Cowan (University of Sussex) through an ethnographic study of the UN Universal Periodic Review (2010-2011), as well as through anthropological research at the International Committee of the Red Cross (2016-2018).

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):

  • 2024. Bureaucratic Affects, Enactments of Expertise, and Structural Nostalgia. Comment on Bortolotto’s article “The Embarrassment of Heritage Inalienability”. Current Anthropology. Vol 65(1). 
  • 2023. Humanitarian Technologies of trust. Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. Vol 41(2). 
  • 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:

  • 2023. Between Conduct and Counter-Conduct: Human Rights Translation at the Universal Periodic Review. In The Complexity of Human Rights: From Vernacularisation to Quantification. Philip Alston (eds). Hart Publishing. 
  • 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). 

Office Hours