Press release: Erasmus Prize 2017 awarded to Michèle Lamont

20 February 2017
The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation has awarded the 2017 Erasmus Prize to the Canadian cultural sociologist Michèle Lamont (1957).


Michèle Lamont is Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, Professor of African and African American Studies and Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies. She receives the prize for her devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power and diversity.

Lamont has devoted her academic career to investigating how cultural conditions shape inequality and social exclusion, and how stigmatized groups find ways to preserve their dignity and self-worth. Her scholarly interests centre on how class and ethnicity determine the way people view reality, and on how the wellbeing of minorities influences the wellbeing 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 searching for success formulas, 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 also turns her critical gaze inwards, analysing the ideas about worth and quality that underpin the formation of judgement within the social sciences. Her research into the underlying patterns within this discussion is of particular importance at a time when the authority of scholars and their claim to truth is increasingly challenged.

With her interdisciplinary approach, critical stance and international outlook, Lamont shows herself to be a champion of diversity in research and society. As such, she embodies the Erasmian values that the Foundation cherishes and upholds.

Michèle Lamont was born in Toronto and grew up in Québec. After studying in Ottawa and Paris, she began her academic career at the universities of Stanford and Princeton in the United States, before moving to Harvard University 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, Lamont et al.), she describes 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. In 2016 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Amsterdam.

The Erasmus Prize will be presented in November 2017. In conjunction with the presentation of the prize, a varied programme of activities will be organized around Michèle Lamont and the theme ‘Knowledge, Power and Diversity'.

Photo Martha Stewart