Message from the Director

Image of Michele LamontAs we close out another semester, I would like to share a few of our accomplishments from the past few months.

Our executive committee just approved the creation of two new Weatherhead Research Clusters: Religion in Public Life in Africa will be co-chaired by Jacob Olupona (AAAS and Divinity School) and Marla Frederik (AAAS and Committee for the Study of Religion), and Regions and Structure of a Multipolar World will be headed by Timothy Colton (Government) and Arne Westad (Kennedy School). These new clusters, along with Diplomacy, Interstate Crises, and Nuclear Instability—approved by the executive committee fall of 2017 and headed by Alastair Iain Johnston (Government), Joshua Kertzer (Government), and Stephen Rosen (Government)—are all slated to launch in the fall of 2018.

In addition, we merged the existing cluster on Global Populism with a new proposal focused on threats to democracy. This new cluster will be co-chaired by Bart Bonikowski (Sociology), Steve Levitsky (Government), and Daniel Ziblatt (Government).

These new clusters, in addition to the two existing clusters on Global Transformations as well as Comparative Inequality and Inclusion, round out a total of six research clusters that resulted from the 2016 external review of the Center. All are at the foundation of the intellectual life of our community that brings together our faculty, visitors, and graduate students.

We also recently selected a new cohort of Weatherhead Scholars, who will arrive in September. Visitors include postdoctoral fellows Talia Shiff, who studies how states—such as the US, Canada, and Australia—shape immigration policy; Çetin Çelik, who analyzes ethnic boundaries with Syrian refugees; and José Fernández Alonso, who studies recovery from sovereign debt crises in Argentina, Greece, and Puerto Rico. Visiting Scholar Mohamed-Ali Adraoui joins us from National University of Singapore to research jihadist thought and networks. We are thrilled to welcome them—along with the rest of our new affiliates—to join the Center for this upcoming year.

Other highlights from the semester include:

  • Together with the members of the advisory committee who visited us in March, the executive committee reflected on the broad purposes behind the work of the Center as we aim to lead in the international, comparative, transnational, and global studies in the decades ahead.
  • Over twenty-five Faculty Associates and senior staff helped evaluate proposals submitted by postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and undergraduate students. Altogether, the WCFIA will disburse nearly $1 million this academic year in research support for these groups.
  • On March 21, we hosted a successful Jodidi Lecture on “Insidious Threats to Academic Freedom in the US and Abroad,” delivered by Michael Ignatieff, president of the Central European University, and Craig Calhoun, president of the Berggruen Institute. 

Against this background of abundant intellectual activities, the Center faced an important challenge following the publication in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s distressing allegations of sexual harassment by Professor Jorge I. Domínguez, former Weatherhead Center director, and until recently, chair of The Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. We responded by promptly posting a statement on our policy and practice of zero tolerance of sexual harassment or gendered disparity of treatment. We also created an inclusion action committee, which brings together faculty, staff, and graduate students to gather data and make recommendations concerning how to strengthen an inclusive climate in which the dignity of all members is respected—and where all are empowered to do their best work possible.

We are fully committed to making the Weatherhead Center as inclusive as possible, and we welcome WCFIA community participation in this process. Please do not hesitate to contact me or Executive Director Ted Gilman if you would like to join us in this effort.

Michèle Lamont
Center Director

Photo Credit: Martha Stewart