2020–2021 Welcome Message from Director Michele Lamont

August 17, 2020

Image of Michele LamontWelcome to the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. Our community of scholars researches complex international, transnational, global, and comparative topics at the frontier of the social sciences. We aim to focus on the most important questions facing societies across the globe. 

This year, we are faced with the enormous challenge of supporting research during a global pandemic. How do we do this? We are a large Center: our affiliates include more than 230 Harvard Faculty Associates and over 150 graduate and undergraduate students, visiting scholars, fellows, and postdoctoral researchers. We plan to interact virtually on a regular basis, to continue to exchange ideas around our research, and to maintain our tradition of theoretical and methodological pluralism. 

Our community spans nine of Harvard’s thirteen schools, and our six ongoing Weatherhead Research Clusters offer broad areas for shared study. The clusters focus on international security; the reconfiguration of regions in a multipolar world; religion in public life in Africa and the African diaspora; challenges to democracy; global transformations; and comparative inequality and inclusion. With momentum built prior to COVID-19, we continue to support data collection, sharing, and publication in all these areas. Research can thrive in a time of social distancing.

This will be the fourth year of the Weatherhead Scholars Program. This program normally offers more than two dozen visiting faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and experienced practitioners the prospect of spending up to one academic year at Harvard. Though the in-person component will not occur this year, participating scholars still have the opportunity to get involved in the research clusters and engage with the Center community.

Our Weatherhead Forum, which is open to the broader community, will continue to meet virtually. This is where the Center comes together on a regular basis, and we would love for you to attend. Talks will concern important events (e.g., the November election) or highlight a different program or research cluster. They feed ongoing substantive exchanges and a robust intellectual community.

Numerous ongoing programs, projects, and conferences complete the range of research activities underway at the Weatherhead Center, though events will be more limited this year. However, our regular seminars, organized by many intellectual partners on a wide range of topics, will continue. These are the core elements of our research support, and they are critical to our mission.

Despite the physical distancing, I hope you will enjoy the activities of the Weatherhead Center this coming 2020–2021 academic year. I warmly invite you to get involved in our online events and activities, and to explore our publications—including our newly revamped research hub, Epicenter, where you will find original blog posts, podcast episodes, and multimedia projects featuring the work of Center affiliates. Stay connected to Center events and news by following us on Twitter and Facebook.

For over sixty years, the Weatherhead Center has shaped the agenda of the social sciences in the United States and the world. The Center will continue to shape the future of scholarship, just has it has in the past, albeit in this new normal. We are thrilled to have you along for the journey. 


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