A cultural sociologist, Lamont studies inequality, race and ethnicity, the evaluation of social science knowledge, and the impact of neoliberalism on advanced industrial societies. Her scholarly interests center on shared concepts of worth and excellence and their impact on hierarchies in a number of social domains. She has written on topics such as how the meanings given to worth (including moral worth) shape ethno-racial and class inequality; the definitions and determinants of societal excellence; and the evaluation of excellence in higher education. Other areas of interest include group boundaries, how members of stigmatized groups respond to racism and discrimination, how culture matters for poverty, peer review, shared criteria of evaluation for qualitative social sciences, disciplinary cultures, and interdisciplinarity. These various strands of her work were brought together in the Adorno Lectures that she delivered at the Institut für Sozialforschung in Frankfurt, June 4-6, 2014, under the title “Worlds of Worth: Cultural Processes of Inequality.” These lectures were also delivered at the Collège de France, where Michèle Lamont was Professeur d’état invitée for the month of May 2015.
A past chair of the Council for European Studies, Lamont also served as the 108th President of the American Sociological Association in 2016-2017. She presided over the 2017 Annual Meeting, with the theme of Culture, Inequalities and Social Inclusion around the World. She was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Canada in 2015. Other recent honors include the Gutenberg Research Award, Johannes Gutenberg University (2014) and the medal of Chevalier des Palmes Académique, French Government (2014).
Lamont recently completed a co-authored book, Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil and Israel (with Graziella Moraes Silva, Joshua Guetzkow, Jessica Welburn, Nissim Mizrachi, Hanna Herzog, and Elisa Reis, published by Princeton University Press in 2016). She is also the author of Money, Morals, and Manners: The Culture of the French and the American Upper-Middle Class (University of Chicago Press, 1992), The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration (Harvard University Press, 2000) and How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment (Harvard University Press, 2009). Her books have won several awards including the 2002 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems for The Dignity of Working Men.
Lamont has also published over a hundred peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has led multi-year collaborative projects that have resulted in collective books: Rethinking Comparative Cultural Sociology: Repertoires of Evaluation in France in the United States (with Laurent Thévenot, Cambridge University Press, 2000), Successful Societies: How Institutions and Culture Affect Health (with Peter A. Hall, Cambridge University Press, 2009), and Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era (with Peter A. Hall, Cambridge University Press, 2013). Other recent edited publications include Workshop on Interdisciplinary Standards for Systematic Qualitative Research (with Patricia White, National Science Foundation, 2008), Reconsidering Culture and Poverty (a special issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, with Mario Luis Small and David J. Harding, 2010), Social Knowledge in the Making (with Charles Camic and Neil Gross, University of Chicago Press, 2011), and Responses to Stigmatization in Comparative Perspective (with Nissim Mizrachi, Routledge, 2012).
Recent papers include “Methodological Pluralism and the Possibilities and Limits of Interviewing” (with Ann Swidler, Qualitative Sociology, 2014); “What is Missing? Culture Processes and Causal Pathways to Inequality” (with Stefan Beljean and Matthew Clair, Socio-Economic Review, 2014);“How Neo-Liberalism has Transformed France’s Symbolic Boundaries?” (with Nicolas Duvoux, French Politics, Culture and Society, 2014); and “Successful Interdisciplinary Collaborations” (with Veronica Boix-Mansilla and Kyoko Sato, Science, Technology and Human Values, 2015).
In recent years Lamont has taught undergraduate courses on “Successful Societies: Markers and Pathways,” “Culture, Power, and Inequality,” “Racism and Anti-Racism in Comparative Perspective,” and “Knowledge Production and Evaluation.” At the graduate level, she has taught “Qualitative Data Analysis,” “Classical Sociological Theory,” and “Culture and Inequality.” Since 2004, she has co-organized the Culture and Social Analysis Workshop in the Department of Sociology, where faculty, post-doctoral researchers, graduate students, and visitors come together to share their work in progress. Since 2005, she has also been the co-organizer of the Study Group on Exclusion and Inclusion at the Center for European Studies.
An active mentor of post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students, Lamont advises research on a wide range of topics. She received the 2010 Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award, given by the Harvard Graduate Student Council. For a list of current and past graduate students and post-docs, click here. She was also one of eight Harvard faculty across all schools to be recognized as a “master mentor” by the Office of the Senior Adviser for Faculty Development and Diversity in 2010.
At Harvard, Lamont is affiliated with a number of programs and has served on a range of university committees. Lamont is a former member of the Committee for Appointment and Promotions of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and of the Provost’s Social Science Advisory Committee. She created a mentoring program for tenure-track faculty in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences when she served as Senior Advisor on Faculty Development and Diversity to the FAS Dean in 2009 and 2010.
Born in Toronto in 1957, Lamont grew up in Québec. She received a B.A. (1978) and a Masters (1979) in political theory at Ottawa University, before pursuing her doctoral research in sociology at the Université de Paris, where she graduated in 1983. She held a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University (1983-1985) and took her first faculty position at the University of Texas at Austin (1985-1987). Appointed as an assistant professor of sociology at Princeton University in 1987, she was promoted to tenure in 1993, and to the rank of full professor in 2000. She moved to Harvard University in 2003 and was appointed Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies in 2006. She is married to Frank R. Dobbin, has three children, and lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.