Head Politics & Society
September 2017 - Present
Researcher - Head of Politics & Society department


Researcher - Head of the Politics & Society department
Julien Levesque holds a Ph.D. (2016) in Political Science from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris. His doctoral research focused on nationalism and identity construction in Sindh after Pakistan’s independence. Before joining CSH, he was Adjunct Associate Professor (ATER) at EHESS.
As a researcher at CSH, Julien Levesque focuses on South Asian Islam and Muslims from the perspective of political sociology. More precisely, his project is to study the social and political role of sayyids, the group generally described as the elite among the elite of Muslims in South Asia. Sayyids claim descent from Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and his cousin Ali. Although being sayyid is in principle a hereditary status, some people or families have become sayyid over time.
Because sayyids generally stand at the top of the Muslim social hierarchy (whether defined in terms of class or caste), this status offers two advantages – charismatic authority and a network – that confer a leadership role to sayyids. In many instances, being sayyid appears as a resource that can be mobilized in social relations and in the political arena.

These observations raise a number of questions that this research hopes to address on the basis of fieldwork in India and Pakistan. To what extent does being sayyid constitute an advantageous resource in the political arena? If that is the case, to what extent do sayyids consider themselves the legitimate representatives of Muslims? In other words, is this resource accepted, or even attributed, or is it self-proclaimed? How does this status, which draws its legitimacy from a prophetic filiation blending genealogy with religion, transforms into power or domination? Questions about the superiority conferred by sayyid status also need to be inverted: are all sayyids in a dominant position? Finally, can the social organization of sayyids be compared to that of a caste? What relationships of solidarity bind sayyids together? By addressing such questions, this research will bring new empirical data on the political representation of Muslims in South Asia and on the role of caste networks and patronage. It will also contribute to scholarship on political leadership by examining sayyids’ charisma as a source of legitimacy.


Articles and book chapters

Julien Levesque, 2016, “‘Sindhis are Sufi by Nature’: Sufism as a Marker of Identity in Sindh,” in Deepra Dandekar & Torsten Tschacher (eds.), Islam, Sufism and Everyday Politics of Belonging in South Asia, London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 212-227

Julien Levesque & Camille Bui, 2014, “Umar Marvi and the Representation of Sindh: Cinema and Modernity in the Margins”, Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies, vol. 5, No. 2, July 2014, pp. 119-128

Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman & Julien Levesque, 2010, “Border State and Look East Policy: Opportunities and Challenges in Mizoram” (co-authored with Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman), in Gogoi, Dilip (ed.), Beyond Borders: Look-East Policy and Northeast India, Guwahati: DVS Publishers, 2010, pp. 189-209

Book reviews

Julien Levesque, 2015, “A History of Violence,” review of Laurent Gayer’s book, Karachi. Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City (Hurst, 2014), Books & Ideas, 12 March 2015

Julien Levesque, 2015, Review of Alix Philippon’s book, Soufisme et politique au Pakistan: le mouvement barelwi à l'heure de la “guerre contre le terrorisme” (Karthala, 2010), South Asia Research, vol. 35, No. 1, February 2015, pp. 140-142

Julien Levesque, 2013, “Managing Diversity in Pakistan: Nationalism, Ethnic Politics and Cultural Resistance,” South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, Book Reviews, 11 June 2013, http://samaj.revues.org/3551