Sophie Lemière’s research focuses mainly on Malaysia and Southeast Asia since 2006. She has also conducted extensive research in post-revolutionary Tunisia and the Caribbean region. She obtained her Master’s and PhD from Sciences-Po Paris and has received fellowships and grants from prestigious research institutions in Europe, Asia and the US. As of 2021, Sophie is permanently based in Malaysia where she has launched World Wonderers a global non-profit social enterprise for the political empowerment of minorities and SoCo a political consulting firm offering services to private and public entities. She is currently affiliated with several think-tanks and university research departments including CSIS Washington DC, SIPA at Florida International University in the USA, the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) in France and the Asia Research Institute at the University of Nottingham in Malaysia.
In 2014, she received her PhD from Sciences-Po, France. Her thesis was the first study on the political role of gangs through umbrella NGOs in Malaysia. In 2007, her Master’s research on the apostasy controversies and Islamic civil society was awarded the second prize for International Young Scholar from the ISIM, Leiden.
Sophie is also an Associate at The Steven J.Green School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA);Florida International University (FIU), Miami, USA; The History Workshop at The University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; The Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) and The Chair of Contemporary History of the Arab World at College de France in Paris, France.
Photo by: Alexandra Radu
Sophie’s current work explores the intangible elements of politics, including: the conjunction of political imaginary and legitimacy, charisma and personality politics, the evolution of political imaginary, the constructions of political and national narratives, the role of emotions in politics.
During the 2018 General Elections campaign, she was given 6 months of access to the inner circles of Mahathir campaign, from nomination day to victory, for her forthcoming monograph (2022). Beyond the rigorous documentation of the campaign and its intricacies from the unique perspective of the close circles of Mahathir, this book is an in-depth analysis of the re-invention of the Mahathir persona and the concept of “Legitimacy” in Malaysia and beyond.
Sophie believes it is essential for academics to disseminate their research to a wide audience, and primarily in the countries they study. With this idea in mind, she has oriented her efforts towards the publication of original scholarship addressing both a general and academic audience within and outside of Malaysia. She is the editor of a series “Malaysian Politics and People”; the first volume Misplaced Democracy was released in 2014, the second volume Illusions of Democracy was published in 2017 and re-published in 2018 by Amsterdam University Press. The third volume of the series Minorities Matter released on 4th May 2019. See here for more information.
Sophie has made considerable efforts to give visibility to Malaysian Studies by publishing in both international academic and non-academic outlets, contributing to publications such as New Mandala, Le Monde, Libération, Mediapart, etc.
Sophie has also started to develop several documentary projects with French production companies, including a series on the arts and politics. Her first film 9/43 featured the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar and was selected among the 25 best movies of the French short-film festival ‘Infracourt’ in 2016.
Sophie has been offered research opportunities in highly competitive research institutions across the globe including: the Democracy in Hard Places Initiative at the Ash Center for Democracy, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, US (May 2018-May 2020), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington DC (March-August 2020), Humanities Center at Stanford University (February 2020), Center for Southeast Asia Studies (CSEAS), Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University (2018-2019), and the Robert Schumann Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS), and European University Institute (2014-2017).
In 2021, Sophie founded SoCo a political consulting firm based in Kuala Lumpur that specialises in Expertise, Education and Advice for private and public entities, and government agencies.