Weatherhead Research Cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion

Image of inequality cluster affiliates

The Weatherhead Research Cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion has been in full swing this year. Led by WCFIA Director Michèle Lamont, this cluster brings together faculty, postdocs, visiting faculty, and graduate students affiliated with various programs within the Weatherhead Center as well as other centers at Harvard. 

Events have included a well-attended conference on September 21–22 called “Changing Middle Classes: Comparative and Global Perspectives,” which brought to Cambridge scholars from around the globe researching various aspects of class formation and structure at the micro, meso, and macro levels. Papers focused on labor markets, identity, boundaries, social movements, politics, and more. 

Image of panel at inequality conference in September 2018

A second important event was a workshop on November 9 that convened scholars who were involved in the cluster last year, together with this year’s cohort. Under the topic of “Recognition and Cultural Processes in Comparative Perspectives,” nine presentations focused on “immigration, refugees, and asylum seekers” and “ethno-racial identities.” This intense day of discussions was complemented by a talk by Professor Eva Illouz (Hebrew University) on gender and stigma. These events were preceded on November 5 by a lunch conversation around the topic of recognition with Professor Nancy Fraser, who delivered a Jodidi Lecture on “Democracy’s Crisis: On the Political Contradictions of Financialized Capitalism.” 

What is emerging from these discussions is a growing sense of intellectual cohesion among scholars who study topics as disparate as the Bolsa Família in Brazil, the administrative selection of asylum seekers in the United States, and the integration of Syrian refugees across several European countries. In all cases, the focus is on institutional and cultural mechanisms that enable and constrain inequality and inclusion. 

Image of Melani Cammett at closed conference in October 2018

Lamont also organized a closed faculty workshop on October 19, which brought together seventeen faculty from various social science departments (sociology, political science, and anthropology), Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Law School, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Harvard Graduate School of Education to learn about their respective research in an intimate setting. This was a rare opportunity for intense intellectual exchange among faculty which will be repeated annually. This event involved several members of the steering committee of the cluster. The committee will distribute funds to undergraduate and graduate students for research on comparative inequality and inclusion in upcoming months. 

Next semester, the cluster will meet on a regular basis to discuss works in progress by members. Affiliates are also preparing a few small workshops for the spring semester on “Law, Inclusion, and Moral Boundaries.”

Image of Michele Lamont at the podium


1. 2018–2019 affiliates of the Weatherhead Research Cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion. Photo credit: Michelle Nicholasen

2. Jules Naudet, panelist at the Changing Middle Classes conference on September 21, 2018. Photo credit: Lauren McLaughlin

3. Faculty Associate Melani Cammett speaking to a closed faculty workshop on October 19, 2018. Photo credit: Michelle Nicholasen

4. Michèle Lamont representing the research cluster at the Weatherhead Forum. Photo credit: Lauren McLaughlin