New Postdoc at the Department

Raphaël Lefévre is a new postdoctoral researcher at the Department

06.10.2020 | Line Kjær Vesterbæk

Raphaël Lefévre

Raphaël Lefévre. Foto: AU

Hello everyone,

Although I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting all of you personally because the travel restrictions linked to Covid-19 have grounded me in the UK, I wanted to say how very pleased I am to join the Political Science Department at Aarhus University as a postdoctoral research fellow, working as part of Morten Valbjørn's The Other Islamists project.

For the past decades, the discussion on the role of Islamist movements in the Middle East has been underpinned by research mostly concerned with Sunni groups -- whether peaceful, like the Muslim Brotherhood, or violent, like Al-Qaeda or ISIS. So, in a post-ISIS era marked by the growing strength of Shia Islamist political parties and militias from Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Yemen, it was more necessary than ever to analyse how these actors differ from their Sunni counterparts and to bring them into the broader debates taking place within the scholarship on Islamist politics. This is the overarching goal of our exciting research project, The Other Islamists, as part of which I follow particularly closely the historical and contemporary developments on the Islamist scene in Lebanon and in Syria.

My background is rooted at the crossroads of area studies and political science. After the Syrian uprisings broke out, I wrote my first book, Ashes of Hama, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria (2013) in order to provide the historical, social and political context necessary to understand the rapid growth of Islamist rebel groups there, on the basis of interviews with dozens of members of the Syrian opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood and their enemies in the Syrian regime. I then worked for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Beirut office, for which I published on many issues related to Lebanese and Syrian politics. For my work and research on Lebanon and Syria, I was the recipient of the 2013 Bill Gates Sr Award. 

I then pursued a PhD degree at Cambridge University. There, I wrote my thesis on how, during the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s, a radical Islamist movement, Tawhid, recruited many locals and created a small ISIS-style Islamic Emirate in the city of Tripoli, once again based on interviews with over 200 Islamist militants but also archival research. It was awarded the Best Thesis of the Year Prize by the Syrian Studies Association in 2018. I am currently turning my dissertation into a book, entitled Jihad in the City: Militant Islamism and Contentious Politics in Tripoli, which will be published with Cambridge University Press in May 2021.

I am very excited to be joining Morten Valbjørn's The Other Islamists project and to be working with him and the rest of the research team for the next three years. I really hope to have the chance to travel to Aarhus as soon as possible in order to meet some of you and to present my work to the department!"