Banting Postdoctoral Fellows


Jean-Michel Landry is a socio-cultural anthropologist with a BA and MA from Université Laval and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.  He was a 2009-2013 Trudeau Scholar.  He is carrying out his postdoctoral project, “Islamic Law Within and Beyond the State: Shi‘i Divorce Adjudication and State-Produced Injustice in Lebanon,” under the direction of Professor Katherine Lemons in the Department of Anthropology. Under Shi‘i Islamic law, women cannot file for divorce unilaterally. In Lebanon, Shi‘i women seeking to divorce their husband can turn to two different institutions: state-administered Shi‘i family law courts and non-state Shi‘i Iegal offices. Jean-Michel’s research compares the adjudication of women-initiated divorces across these two sites of Islamic legal practice, each of which enforces Shi‘i law. Through a combination of fieldwork and a study of legal decisions, Jean-Michel’s project pursues two goals. The first is to document the religious resources, adjudication practices, and forms of reasoning by which non-state Shi‘i legal institutions authorize women-initiated divorces. The second goal is to analyze how and why state Iegal institutions applying the same religious law end up impeding these divorces. This requires identifying the specific legal mechanisms, procedures, or instruments that lead state family law judges to restrict women’s access to divorce, thereby intensifying existing gender inequalities. Jean-Michel’s study promises to bring to light how (and to what extent) the modern state’s management of Islamic law itself contributes to reproduce social injustices in the Middle East and beyond. By the same token, it hopes to show how state-centered justice must change in order to better serve the cause of gender equality.


Lara Rosenoff Gauvin obtained her BA in Communication Studies from Concordia University, her MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, and her PhD in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia.  She was a 2011-2015 Trudeau Scholar.  Lara’s postdoctoral project, under the direction of Professor John Galaty in the Department of Anthropology, is entitled “Sons and Daughters of Bwoc: Community Knowledge Translation and Land Rights in Rural Post-Conflict Northern Uganda.”  In the post-conflict and post-displacement contexts of Acoliland, Northern Uganda, Lara seeks to better understand, assess, and theorize the protection of communal lands as a basis for attaining Acoli economic, social, cultural, and political rights. Through processes of cultural innovation, Acoli kaka (sub-clans or clans) are writing constitutions and creating kin-based non-profit foundations that translate indigenous knowledge into current political language, drawing from implicit cultural, economic, and legal structures. These initiatives have various goals, such as “uniting the kaka” and “streamlining cultural traditions” after their disruptive experiences of war and displacement camps, but, overwhelmingly, Acoli communities are seeking to secure land rights for “sons and daughters of the kaka” by creating ‘foundations’ through which they can transform what they perceive as precarious customary land rights into more secure institutional forms. Acknowledging how indigenous Acoli social organization is mobilized and translated into alternate legal-political structures like non-profit foundations shifts global debates about transitional justice and achieving durable solutions after displacement through peacebuilding towards indigenous knowledge and community practices that, due to local recognition and cultural legitimacy, may offer a stronger basis for reconciliation and long-term security.



Marie-Claude FeltonMarie-Claude Felton holds a BA in history from McGill, an MA in history from the Université Laval, and a PhD from UQÀM and the EHESS (École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris).  The recipient of numerous prizes and research fellowships in Canada and internationally, her dissertation will be published in monograph form this year as part of the Voltaire Foundation Series, Oxford University Press. Marie-Claude comes to McGill from her two-year Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Department of History at Harvard where she investigated the role of self-publications in the dissemination of scientific knowledge in France before the Revolution.  At McGill, she will broaden the intellectual scope and the geographical and temporal contexts and undertake the first comparative and broader study of self-publishing in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Working with Professor Andrew Piper, she will ask: How did different legislative, economic, and cultural contexts influenced the practice and significance of self-publishing?  What was the place of self-published writers in the book market and what was their reception among readers? Can their activity challenge traditional depictions of a larger domination of publishers at that time? What was the role of these authors’ experience and their claims within the genesis of modern copyright? At the center of her analysis, primarily based on archival research in Paris, Leipzig and London, Marie-Claude will take a closer look at the role of authors-publishers on the European book market, the reception of their works, and the significance of their claims within the genesis of modern copyright. Her argument is that only by understanding the place of these numerous, yet little studied authors can we gain a more nuanced understanding of the history of authorship in the modern period.

Simon MacdonaldSimon Macdonald received his BA in History from the University of Cambridge, his MA in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and his PhD in History from the University of Cambridge.  He has completed postdoctoral work at Yale University, the University of Edinburgh, and University College, London.  He has also been a fellow at the Fanny Burney Centre here at McGill.  Working with Professor Brian Cowan, Simon will highlight the especial value of ‘cosmopolitanism’ by investigating cross-border interchange in Enlightenment Europe Today, the word 'cosmopolitan' and its cognates are often used loosely and unsystematically. This was not the case, however, during the Enlightenment, when intellectuals constructed sophisticated ideas about the 'cosmopolitan', with the term’s meaning being comparable to our current usage of 'international'. Through the use of interlinking approaches drawn from the history of ideas, the history of political concepts, and the wider history of society, Simon will investigate the varieties of practice of cosmopolitanism and will examine how those who crossed borders perceived and justified their experiences.    His research will also reveal how far cosmopolitanism, be it as a set of concepts or a set of actual cross-border activities, was restricted to the social elite, or whether non-elite persons were also involved.  The results will make a significant contribution to ‘transnational’ history by providing an historical context for major current debates about migration, trade, and wider forms of cross-border exchange.


Jessica Coon received her PhD in Linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and comes to McGill after a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.  Under the supervision of Professor Lisa Travis, Dr. Coon is pursuing research on the morphology and syntax of Mayan (spoken in Guatemala, southern Mexico, Belize) and Austronesian (spoken in Southeast Asia and the Pacific) languages.  She is engaged in a detailed comparison of rare grammatical similarities found in the individual languages of these two unrelated language families.  This curious phenomenon lends support to the hypothesis that all human languages share certain innate basic principles.  Dr. Coon’s research fills a lacuna in the field by making a significant contribution to our knowledge of these to date under-studied languages.  Her work also increases our understanding of the possible range of variation of human language, the consequences of which have implications both for theoretical linguistics and for our understanding of the underlying nature of human language itself.  Dr. Coon is currently involved in two major research projects at McGill, and is working in collaboration with the interdisciplinary Centre for Research on Language, Mind and Brain (CRLMB).