Weatherhead Center Director Michèle Lamont Awarded Erasmus Prize 2017

February 20, 2017


The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs is delighted to announce that its Director, Michèle Lamont, has been awarded the 2017 Erasmus Prize. One of Europe’s most illustrious recognitions, the prize honors individual or group contributions to European culture, society or social science. The prize is named after Desiderius Erasmus, the Dutch Renaissance humanist, and the awards ceremony will be held in November at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. It comes with an award of 150,000 Euros.

Lamont is Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, Professor of African and African American Studies and Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies. In awarding the prize, the Erasmus Foundation recognizes her “devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power and diversity.”

“I’m deeply moved to have been chosen for this award. I have tremendous admiration for the past recipients who have defined the social sciences of the 20th century. Erasmus believed that knowledge would help improve understanding among people. Particularly in our challenging times, I hope that in its own way, my research could perhaps help us in a similar direction,” Lamont says.

In her academic career, Lamont has investigated how cultural conditions shape inequality and social exclusion, and how stigmatized groups find ways to preserve their dignity and self-worth. Her scholarly interests center on how class and ethnicity determine the way people view reality, and on how the wellbeing of minorities influences the success of the wider society. Through ground-breaking international comparative research, she shows that disadvantaged groups can achieve new forms of self- esteem and respect.

In her work in the Successful Societies Program, she examines the cultural factors and institutional structures that can create more resilient societies. Moreover, she shows that diversity often leads to more vigorous and productive relationships in both society and the academic world.

Lamont was born in Toronto and grew up in Québec. After studying in Ottawa and Paris, she began her academic career at Stanford University, then held professorships at University of Texas-Austin and Princeton University, before moving to Harvard in 2003. Lamont has written dozens of books and articles on such subjects as: culture, social inequality and exclusion; racism and ethnicity; institutions and science. In her most recent book, ‘Getting Respect’ (2016), she and her colleagues describe how various stigmatized groups respond to the daily experience of discrimination. Her previous book, ‘How Professors Think’ (2009) examines how the academic world determines what valuable knowledge is. 

An internationally influential sociologist, Lamont has played a leading role in connecting European and American areas of research within the social sciences. In 2002 she co-founded the Successful Societies Program at the CIFAR. She was recently voted 108th President of the American Sociological Association. She will be presiding over the ASA’s 2017 Annual Meeting, with the theme of Culture, Inequalities and Social Inclusion around the World. Michèle Lamont began her directorship at the Weatherhead Center in 2015.

In conjunction with the presentation of the Erasmus Prize in Amsterdam in the fall, a varied program of activities will be organized around Michèle Lamont and the theme ‘Knowledge, Power and Diversity'.

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