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A cultural sociologist, Lamont studies inequality, race and ethnicity, the evaluation of social science knowledge, and the impact of neoliberalism on advanced industrial societies. 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 topics such as how the meanings given to worth (including moral worth) shape ethno-racial and class inequality; the definitions and determinants of societal excellence; and 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 that she delivered at the Institut für Sozialforschung in Frankfurt, June 4-6, 2014, under the title “Worlds of Worth: Cultural Processes of Inequality” (publications in English, French, and German are in preparation). These lectures were also delivered at the Collège de France, where Michèle Lamont was Professeur d’état invitée for the month of May 2015.
Lamont is Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard University. She served as the 108th President of the American Sociological Association in 2016-2017 and she chaired the Council for European Studies from 2006-2009. She is also the recipient of the 2017 Erasmus prize for her contributions to the social sciences in Europe and the rest of the world. She serves on the boards of the American Council of Learned Societies, The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.
A cultural and comparative sociologist, Lamont is the author of a dozen books and edited volumes and over one hundred articles and chapters on a range of topics including culture and inequality, racism and stigma, academia and knowledge, social change and successful societies, and qualitative methods. Her most recent publications include the coauthored book Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel (Princeton University Press, 2016); a special issue of the British Journal of Sociology on "The Trump/Brexit Moment: Causes and Consequences"; and her ASA Presidential Address “Addressing Recognition Gaps: Destigmatization and the Reduction of Inequality,” published in the American Sociological Review.
At Harvard, Lamont is affiliated with a number of programs and has served on a range of university committees. Currently, Lamont is Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University; and Co-director of the Successful Societies Program, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Lamont is 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. She created a mentoring program for tenure-track faculty in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences when she served as Senior Advisor on Faculty Development and Diversity to the FAS Dean in 2009 and 2010.
In recent years Lamont has taught undergraduate courses on “Successful Societies: Markers and Pathways,” “Culture, Power, and Inequality,” “Racism and Anti-Racism in Comparative Perspective,” and “Knowledge Production and Evaluation.” At the graduate level, she has taught “Qualitative Data Analysis,” “Classical Sociological Theory,” and “Culture and Inequality.” Since 2004, she has co-organized the Culture and Social Analysis Workshop in the Department of Sociology, where faculty, post-doctoral researchers, graduate students, and visitors come together to share their work in progress. Since 2005, she has also been the co-organizer of the Study Group on Exclusion and Inclusion at the Center for European Studies.
An active mentor of post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students, Lamont advises research on a wide range of topics. She received the 2010 Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award, given by the Harvard Graduate Student Council. For a list of current and past graduate students and post-docs, click here. She was also one of eight Harvard faculty across all schools to be recognized as a “master mentor” by the Office of the Senior Adviser for Faculty Development and Diversity in 2010.
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 as an 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.