Professor Julie Billaud joined the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies in 2019.
She holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Sussex and a PhD in Sociology from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. She is a legal and political anthropologist who has held positions in the UK (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.
Julie has carried out ethnographic research in Afghanistan short after the fall of the Taliban regime to study the reconstruction process from the perspective of various groups of women who were the target of ‘empowerment’ programs. The book that came out of this research, Kabul Carnival: Gender Politics in Postwar Afghanistan (2015, Pennsylvania University Press), documents 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 study explores notions of morality, citizenship and multiculturalism from the standpoint of these emerging legal field and 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, this research 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 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.