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Michèle Lamont

Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, Professor of Sociology, and Professor of African and African American Studies
Contact Information
510 William James Hall
(617) 496-0645
(617) 496-5794
Department of Sociology
33 Kirkland Street 510 William James Hall
Cambridge, MA 02138



Michèle Lamont is a Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard University. She is a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and has co-directed its research program on Successful Societies since 2002.  

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.

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) and Chinese (2012).  The Dignity of Working Men won several book awards including the 2002 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

Lamont has also published over eighty 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 Neo-Liberal Age (with Peter A. Hall, forthcoming, Cambridge University Press). Other recent book-length 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 “Toward a Comparative Sociology of Valuation and Evaluation” (Annual Review of Sociology, 2012),How is Bourdieu Good to Think with?” (Sociological Forum, 2012), and “European Workers: Meaning-Making Beings.” (with Caitlin Daniel and Eleni Arzoglou). (Research in the Sociology of Work, 2011) 

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 (March 2012, also to be published as a book titled Responses to Stigmatization in Comparative Perspective, Routledge, with Nissim Mizrachi) and in a three-way comparative book on class differences in anti-racist responses (in preparation). She has also produced a complementary special feature of Du Bois Review on “Varieties of Responses to Stigmatization: Macro, Meso, and Micro Dimensions” (with Crystal Fleming and Jessica Welburn). Other ongoing projects include a paper on Successful Societies for the Annual Review of Political Science (with Peter A. Hall), a comparative study of the conditions of success for interdisciplinary research teams, which compares research networks of the Santa Fe Institute, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (with Veronica Boix-Mansilla and Kyoko Sato); and a study of the process of selection of housing in the upper middle class based on interviews with realtors in Chicago and New York City (with Laurent Rivera).   

A former Guggenheim fellow, Lamont’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation and a number of foundations in the United States and abroad.  She serves on international scientific advisory boards, such as the Haut Conseil de la science et de la technologie (French Government), and the scientific committee of the fellowship program of the Open Society Institute,  the Réseau français d’Instituts d’études avancées, and Sciences Po. She has been a regular visitor to European institutes for social science research, such as the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Sciences Po, and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fur Sozialforschung (WZB).

A consultant to the World Bank and UNESCO, Lamont has chaired an international blue-ribbon panel charged with evaluating peer review practices at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She also presided over the Council for European Studies from 2006-2009 and served as Senior Advisor on Faculty Development and Diversity in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in 2009 and 2010, where she created a mentoring program for tenure-track faculty and launched other initiatives.

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 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 Mendelson Award for Graduate Mentoring, given by the Harvard Graduate Students 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 "master mentor" by the Office of the Senior Advisor for Faculty Development and Diversity in 2010.  

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 has directed the European Network on Inequality of the Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality and Social Policy at the Kennedy School. Her service also includes the Executive Committee of the Center for European Studies and the Board of the Du Bois Institute. She 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.

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.