Publications

2006
Lamont, Michèle, and Christopher Bail. 2006. “Sur les Frontières de la Reconnaissance: Les Catégories Internes et Externes de l'Identité Collective”. Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationalea 21 (2):61-90.Abstract
This article offers a framework for analyzing variations in how members of stigmatized ethno-racial groups establish equivalence with dominant groups through the comparative study of “equalization strategies.” Whereas extant scholarship on anti-racism has focused on the struggle of social movements against institutional and political exclusion and for social justice, we are concerned with the “everyday” anti-racist strategies deployed by members of stigmatized groups. We seek to compare how these strategies vary according to the permeability of inter-group boundaries. The first section defines our research problem and the second section locates our agenda within the current literature. The third section sketches an empirical context for the comparative analysis of equalization strategies across four cases: Palestinian citizens of Israel, Catholics in Northern Ireland, blacks in Brazil, and Québecois in Canada. Whereas the first two cases are examples of ethnic conflict where group boundaries are tightly policed, the second cases exemplify more permeable boundaries. We conclude by offering tentative hypotheses about the relationship between the permeability of inter-group boundaries and the salience and range of equalization strategies used by members of stigmatized ethno-racial groups to establish equivalence with their counterparts in dominant majority groups.
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2005
Lamont, Michèle, and Crystal Fleming. 2005. “Everyday Anti-Racism: Competence and Religion in the Cultural Repertoire of the African American Elite”. Du Bois Review 2 (1):29-43.Abstract
This exploratory study makes a contribution to the literature on anti-racism by unpacking the cultural categories through which everyday anti-racism is experienced and practiced by extraordinarily successful African-Americans. Using a phenomenological approach, we focus on processes of classification to analyze the criteria that they mobilize to compare racial groups and establish their equality. We first summarize results from earlier work on the anti-racist strategies of White and African-American workers. Second, drawing upon in-depth interviews with members of the Black elite, we show that demonstrating intelligence and competence, and gaining knowledge, are particularly valued strategies of equalization, while religion has a subordinate role within their anti-racist repertoire. Thus, gaining cultural membership is often equated with educational and occupational attainment. Anti-racist strategies that value college education and achieving by the standards of American individualism may exclude many poor and working class African-Americans from cultural membership. Thus strategies of equalization based on educational and professional competence may prove dysfunctional for racial solidarity.
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2004
Lamont, Michèle, and John Bulmer, Martin & Solomos. 2004. “A Life of Sad, But Justified, Choices: Interviewing Across (too) Many Divides”. Pp. 163-171 in Researching Race and Racism. London: Routledge. PDF
2003
Lamont, Michèle. 2003. “Who Counts as 'Them': Racism and Virtue in the United States and France”. Contexts 2 (4):36-41.Abstract
In the United States, black Americans are the typical targets of discrimination. In France, the victims are usually Arab immigrants. In both cases, prejudice against minorities has less to do with the color or national origin of the ostracized than with the need of whites and natives to preserve their own sense of moral self-worth.
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Lamont, Michèle, Angela Tsay, Andrew Abbott, and Joshua Guetzkow. 2003. “From Character to Intellect: Changing Conceptions of Merit in the Social Sciences and the Humanities, 1951-1971”. Poetics 31 (1):23-17.Abstract
This paper investigates the questions of whether and how the evaluation of merit in academic disciplines changed between the early 1950s and the late 1960s. We analyze letters of recommendation written for prospective graduate students who applied to the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Program during the periods 1951–1955 and 1967–1971, in the disciplines of economics, political science, philosophy, English and history. We find that in all disciplines, the relative use of intellectual and technical criteria increased during this time, the relative use of moral and social background criteria declined, while the use of personal criteria did not change. We find little evidence of disciplinary differences. In suggesting potential explanations for these findings, we focus on the impact of the dramatic growth and expanding diversity of academia during the postwar years.
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2002
Molnár, Virág, and Michèle Lamont. 2002. “Social Categorization and Group Identification: How African Americans Shape their Collective Identity Through Consumption”. Pp. 88-111 in Interdisciplinary Approaches to Demand and Its Role in Innovation, edited by Kenneth Green, Andrew McMeekin, Mark Tomlinson, and Vivien Walsh. Manchester: Manchester University Press. PDF
Lamont, Michèle, and Virág Molnár. 2002. “The Study of Boundaries Across the Social Sciences”. Annual Review of Sociology 28:167-95.Abstract

In recent years, the concept of boundaries has been at the center of influential research agendas in anthropology, history, political science, social psychology, and sociology. This article surveys some of these developments while describing the value added provided by the concept, particularly concerning the study of relational processes. It discusses literatures on (a) social and collective identity; (b) class, ethnic/racial, and gender/sex inequality; (c) professions, knowledge, and science; and (d) communities, national identities, and spatial boundaries. It points to similar processes at work across a range of institutions and social locations. It also suggests paths for further developments, focusing on the relationship between social and symbolic boundaries, cultural mechanisms for the production of boundaries, difference and hybridity, and cultural membership and group classifications.

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Lamont, Michèle, and Sada Aksartova. 2002. “Ordinary Cosmopolitanisms: Strategies for Bridging Racial Boundaries among Working Class Men”. Theory, Culture and Society 19 (4):1-25.Abstract
In contrast to most literature on cosmopolitanism, which focuses on its elite forms, this article analyzes how ordinary people bridge racial boundaries in everyday life. It is based on interviews with 150 non-college-educated white and black workers in the United States and white and North African workers in France. The comparison of the four groups shows how differences in cultural repertoires across national context and structural location shape distinct anti-racist rhetorics. Market-based arguments are salient among American workers, while arguments based on solidarity and egalitarianism are used by French, but not by American, workers. Minority workers in both countries employ a more extensive toolkit of anti-racist rhetoric as compared to whites. The interviewed men privilege evidence grounded in everyday experience, and their claims of human equality are articulated in terms of universal human nature and, in the case of blacks and North Africans, universal morality. Workers' conceptual frameworks have little in common with multiculturalism that occupies a central place in the literature on cosmopolitanism. We argue that for the discussion and practice of cosmopolitanism to move forward we should shift our attention to the study of multiple ordinary cosmopolitanisms.
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Lamont, Michèle, Ann Morning, and Margarita Mooney. 2002. “Particular Universalisms: North African Immigrants Respond to French Racism”. Ethnic and Racial Studies 25 (3):390-414.Abstract

This article examines how ordinary victims of racism rebut racist beliefs
communicated to them by the mass media and encountered in daily life. We describe the rhetorical devices that North African immigrant men in France use to respond to French racism, drawing on thirty in-depth interviews conducted with randomly selected blue-collar immigrants residing in the Paris suburbs. We argue that while French anti-racist rhetorics, both elite and popular, draw on universalistic principles informed by the Enlightenment as well as French Republican ideals, North African immigrants rebut racism by drawing instead on their daily experience and on a ‘particular universalism’, i.e. a moral universalism informed by Islam. Their arguments frequently centre on claims of equality or similarity between all human beings, or between North Africans and the French. Available cultural repertoires and the structural positions of immigrants help to account for the rhetorical devices that immigrants use to rebut racism.

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2001
Lamont, Michèle, and Virág Molnár. 2001. “How Blacks Use Consumption to Shape their Collective Identity: Evidence from African-American Marketing Specialists”. Journal of Consumer Culture 1 (1):31-45.Abstract
This article develops a 'social identity' perspective to the study of consumption. It builds on Richard Jenkins' distinction between internal and external definitions of collective identity and explores the interplay of these definitions in the realm of consumption. Evidence is collected from interviews with marketing professionals who specialize in the African-American market segment to show that this theoretical approach complements and improves on existing approaches. Marketing professionals' interpretations of the black consumer's distinctiveness are used to map the twin processes of internal and external definitions of collective identity for African-Americans. The interviews suggest that marketing professionals (1) actively shape the meanings of the category of 'the black consumer' for the public at large; (2)promote powerful normative models of collective identity that equate social membership with conspicuous consumption; (3) believe that African-Americans use consumption to defy racism and share collective identities most valued in American society (e.g. middle-class membership); and (4) simultaneously enact a positive vision of their cultural distinctiveness.
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Reprinted August 2010.
Lamont, Michèle. 2001. “Immigration and the Salience of Racial Boundaries among French Workers”. French Politics, Culture, and Society 19 (1):1-21.Abstract

In contrast to the view that republicanism helps mitigate against racism, interviews and national surveys suggest that republicanism has had a contradictory impact on white workers in France. On the one hand, by delegitimizng race it has helped them view Antillais is France, as well as black African immigrants, relatively tolerantly. On the other hand, because many workers regard the Republic in cultural terms as a French way of life rooted in Christian values, republicanism has also confirmed white workers in their antipathy toward North Africans, whom they regard as too different in religion and social mores to assimilate into French society. This prejudicial application of republicanism has been more appealing to white workers in the context of chronic unemployment and a political landscape affected by the electoral breakthroughs of the National Front. [Adapted from Introduction, Race in France: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Politics of Difference, edited by Herrick Chapman and Laura L. Frader (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2004), pp. 10-11.]

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2000
Lamont, Michèle. 2000. “Comparing French and American Sociology”. Tocqueville Review 21 (1):109-22.Abstract
Some preliminary research guidelines for a systematic comparison of French & American sociology are proffered. American sociology is argued to be more structured than French sociology, with career paths more institutionally defined & more consensus on the profits of professional investments & the ranking of departments & journals. Further, in American sociology, a stronger control is exercised over the norms of production & over professional behavior, owing largely to more substantial research & institutional resources. In terms of formal training, the research in France is conducted mainly in research laboratories, not in graduate departments, as in the US. The hegemony of quantitative sociology in the US is due to the values of populism, anti-intellectualism, & pragmatism, while the dominance of metatheory in French sociology is fostered by the status of French intellectuals. Whereas American sociology is almost exclusively empirically grounded, the historical attraction of individuals from many different fields to sociology in France has caused it to favor nonempirically based research & the hegemony of theory as research activity.
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Special 20th anniversary issue on "Intellectual, Political, and Cultural relationships Between France and the United States over the Last Twenty Years."
Lamont, Michele, Jason Kaufman, and Michael Moody. 2000. “The Best of the Brightest: Definitions of the Ideal Self among Prize-Winning Students”. Sociological Forum 15 (2):187-224.Abstract
This paper documents and explains characteristics of the ideal self rewarded by the American educational system as defined and projected by high school students who have been selected as Presidential Scholars in a national academic competition sponsored by the Department of Education and a White house Commission. Drawing on analysis of competition essays written by 119 Presidential Scholars and interviews conducted with 19 of them, we identify how these students implicitly and explicitly define the ideal self and what they do to demonstrate that they embody the characteristics of the self they perceive as rewarded by the American educational system. The data show that morality is the most salient dimension of the ideal self displayed by Scholars, and that they define it in terms of self-actualization, authenticity, and interpersonal morality; that Scholars present negative or ambivalent views concerning the importance of socioeconomic status; and that culture as a dimension of the ideal self is highlighted only by a subset of Scholars. In general, their displayed definitions of the ideal self are individualist in content but highly institutionalized in form. We explain our findings by the cultural repertoires that are made available to students and by their life experience and the broader structural characteristics of American society that lead them to draw on specific repertoires.
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1997
Lamont, Michèle. 1997. “Colliding Moralities Between America’s Black and White Workers”. Pp. 263-285 in From Sociology to Cultural Studies: New Perspectives, edited by Elizabeth Long. New York: Wiley-Blackwell. PDF

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