A Message from the Director

Image of Michele LamontWhile visiting the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, China this summer, I learned that in the 1920s, Harvard archeology professor Langdon Warner—who served as inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones—had lifted Tang Dynasty Buddhist murals from these illustrious caves. He had them shipped to Harvard’s Fogg Museum, allegedly to preserve them from Russian vandals. Over the centuries, pilgrims had donated the murals to protect or celebrate their perilous crossings of the Silk Road, in true transnational fashion.

On a previous trip to China, I was astonished to find numerous copies of WCFIA Faculty Associate Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy on display at the Hangzhou airport. Later at the hotel, I found our colleague on one of the official Chinese television channels describing the existential perils of market societies.

These two anecdotes are sure signs of Harvard’s continuous involvements in transnational circuits of artistic, intellectual, and scientific exchange—long before “global university” became a buzzword. I was reminded how much, as Harvard international faculty, we are building on a long—if at times controversial—tradition.

As Harvard’s largest international social science research center, the Weatherhead Center continues to play a pivotal role in shaping international knowledge through the regular practice of producing, diffusing, and evaluating research. This international role is made clear in the scholarly work of our 225+ Faculty Associates, all of whom have dedicated their lives to learning about societies across the globe. It also manifests itself in how we empower the research of our students, postdocs, and visitors.

As announced in the spring 2016 Centerpiece, we are thrilled to open the new academic year with the launch of three new multiyear projects. First is the Weatherhead Initiative on Afro-Latin American Studies, an Initiative that will focus on the complex intersections between nationalist ideologies of racial democracy, mobilization, and the implementation of race-based redistributive policies in Latin America. Second is the Weatherhead Initiative on Climate Engineering, another Initiative that will research solar radiation management from technological, economic, and governance perspectives. Third is the SCANCOR-Weatherhead Partnership, in which visiting scholars will connect with faculty and students across Harvard schools to study multinational corporations, transnational corporate networks, and other non-state organizations.

In addition to sponsoring new research activities, the Center is also committed to dispersing research findings. I am initiating a new monthly seminar to foster intellectual conversation between our various communities. This Director’s Lunch Seminar will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on selected Tuesdays and will feature presentations by faculty, postdocs, and graduate students. Stay tuned for an official announcement of the seminar.

Here’s to an engaging and exciting year ahead!

Michèle Lamont
Weatherhead Center Director
Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies
Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies