Jean-Michel Landry

Study program:
Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, McGill University
Current affiliation:
McGill University

Jean-Michel explores the social history of the ideal of secularism in Lebanon, the exclusionary effects it sets out to combat, and those it sometimes generates.

Anthropologist and 2009 Trudeau scholar Jean-Michel Landry spent several years in the Middle East (Lebanon and Syria). An expert on the region and a specialist in Islamic law, Landry teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Berkeley as well as in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Laval. He is an associate researcher at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient and he works with Le Devoir (Montréal), La Presse (Montréal) and Le Monde diplomatique (Paris). Landry’s doctoral thesis analyzes the political, economic, and religious consequences of the application of Shiite Charia law by the Lebanese state.


Secularism in Lebanon: mobilization practices, exclusionary effects

In Lebanon, secularism is not a new ideal. The multi-sectarian nature of the region - and of the country since 1920 - has made Lebanon relatively open to modern political ideals, including freedom of conscience, tolerance, and secularism. Since the mid-19th century, secularism has thus been put forward as a political and social imperative in the face of the country's religious diversity, as well as a guarantee of stability and peace. Despite this, many Lebanese activists feel secularism in the country has failed, although it recently raised its head again during mass demonstrations in favour of secularism in February 2011. Jean-Michel Landry's proposed study will explore the social history of the ideal of secularism in Lebanon, the exclusionary effects it sets out to combat, and those it sometimes generates. As the spearhead of today's secularization project, anti-sectarisn social movements will serve as the starting point for Jean-Michel's research.

Jean-Michel Landry completed a PhD in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley. Before beginning the field study that took him to Lebanon (2011-2013), he conducted research in Syria (2010), Russia (2005-2007), and in the archives of French philosopher Michel Foucault (2006). His research results and theoretical thinking have been published in learned journals such as Telos, Raisons Politiques, Anthropological Theory, Anthropologie et Sociétés, and Aspects sociologiques. Jean-Michel is currently a doctoral fellow at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient and an affiliated researcher at the Orient Institut Beirut. He speaks French, English, and Arabic. He completed a master’s in anthropology (Université Laval, 2008) and contributes regularly to Le Devoir, La Presse, and Radio-Canada One.

Experience as a Trudeau Scholar

Receiving the Trudeau scholarship allowed me to take a giant step forward. In terms of my research, the annual travel allowance in particular expanded the scope of my ethnographic investigation and increased the extent of my academic network. Without the funding offered by the Trudeau Foundation, my doctoral research would not have been the same in either form or content. But what I have retained, above all, from my time with the Trudeau Foundation is the depth of the discussions it generated. Of course, people do not always have the opportunity to hear some of the country’s best researchers and most experienced policymakers debate current issues, but it is quite rare to be able to actually speak in such learned company. And it is extremely rare to not only have the opportunity to learn to speak but to be heard and considered in a group of erudite and influential people. My time with the Trudeau Foundation taught me that we learn from being heard, and it gave me a few keys to acquiring that learning.