A cultural sociologist, Lamont specializes in the sociology of inequality, race and ethnicity, the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of higher education, sociological theory and comparative and qualitative sociology. Her scholarly interests center on shared concepts of worth and excellence, and their impact on hierarchies in a number of social domains. She has written on how the meanings given to worth (including moral worth) shape ethno-racial and class inequality, on the definitions and determinants of societal excellence, and on the evaluation of excellence in higher education. Other areas of interest include group boundaries, how members of stigmatized groups respond to racism and discrimination, how culture matters for poverty, peer review, shared criteria of evaluation for qualitative social sciences, disciplinary cultures, and interdisciplinarity. These various strands of her work were brought together in the Adorno lectures she delivered at the Institut fur Sozialforschung in Frankfurt on June 4-6 2014, under the title “Worlds of Worth: Cultural Processes of Inequality” (publications in English, French and German in preparation). These lectures were delivered at the Collège de France, where Michèle Lamont was Professeur d’Etat invitée for the month of May 2015.
Starting August 2015, she will be President-Elect of the American Sociological Association.
Lamont is the author of Money, Morals and Manners: The Culture of the French and the American Upper-Middle Class (University of Chicago Press, 1992), The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class and Immigration (Harvard University Press, 2000) and How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment (Harvard University Press, 2009 – translated in Korean (2011), Chinese (2012), and Spanish (forthcoming)). Her books have won several awards including the 2002 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems for The Dignity of Working Men. Other recent honors include the Gutenberg Research Award, Johannes Gutenberg University (2014) and the medal of Chevalier des Palmes Academique, French Government (2014).
Lamont has also published over ninety peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has led multi-year collaborative projects that have resulted in collective books: Rethinking Comparative Cultural Sociology: Repertoires of Evaluation in France in the United States (with Laurent Thévenot, Cambridge University Press, 2000), Successful Societies: How Institutions and Culture Affect Health (with Peter A. Hall, Cambridge University Press 2009), and Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era (with Peter A. Hall, Cambridge University Press, 2013). Other recent edited publications include Workshop on the Evaluation of Systematic Qualitative Research in the Social Sciences (with Patricia White, National Science Foundation 2008), Reconsidering Culture and Poverty (a special issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social sciences, with David Harding and Mario Small, 2010), and Social Knowledge in the Making (with Charles Camic and Neil Gross, University of Chicago Press, 2011).
Recent papers include “Methodological Pluralism and the Possibilities and Limits of Interviewing” (with Ann Swidler, Qualitative Sociology, 2014), "What is Missing? Culture Processes and Causal Pathways to Inequality" (with Matthew Clair and Stefan Beljean, Socio-Economic Review, 2014), “How Neo-Liberalism has Transformed France’s Symbolic Boundaries?” (with Nicolas Duvoux, French Politics, Culture and Society, 2014) and "Why Social Relations Matter for Politics and Successful Societies" (with Peter A. Hall, Annual Review of Political Science, 2013).
Lamont is currently working on a large collaborative project on responses to stigmatization in Brazil, Israel and the United States, with the support of the National Science Foundation, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and other international funders. This research is featured in a special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies (2012), also published as a book titled Responses to Stigmatization in Comparative Perspective (edited with Nissim Mizrachi, Routledge) and in a three-way comparative book to be completed in summer 2015, Getting Respect: Dealing with Stigmatization and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil and Israel (cowritten with Graziella Moraes Silva, Joshua Guetzkow, Jessica Welburn, Nissim Mizrachi, Hanna Herzog, and Elisa Reis).
At Harvard, Lamont is affiliated with a number of programs and has served on a range of university committees. For several years she has served on the steering committee of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and her service also includes the Executive Committee of the Center for European Studies and the Board of the Du Bois Institute. She is currently serving on the University Committee on International Projects and Sites (UCIPS). Lamont was a former member of the Committee for Appointment and Promotions of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and of the Provost’s Social Science Advisory Committee.
Born in Toronto in 1957, Lamont grew up in Québec. She received a B.A. (1978) and a Masters (1979) in political theory at Ottawa University, before pursuing her doctoral research in sociology at the Université de Paris, where she graduated in 1983. She held a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University (1983-1985) and took her first faculty position at the University of Texas at Austin (1985-1987). Appointed Assistant Professor of Sociology at Princeton University in 1987, she was promoted to tenure in 1993 and to the rank of full professor in 2000. She moved to Harvard University in 2003 and was appointed Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies in 2006. She is married to Frank R. Dobbin, has three children, and lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.