Learn More About Michèle Lamont
How do leaders influence who matters and who doesn’t – in the workplace and in society? Who owns the narrative, and what can be done to broaden definitions so organizations, communities and individuals can thrive?
Such questions are at the heart of esteemed Harvard University Professor Michèle Lamont’s research. Professor of Sociology and of African and African American studies, and one of the world’s leading scholars of individual and group transformation, she offers organizational leaders a unique, non-partisan perspective on how they can create conditions where dignity, equality, respect, inclusion and destigmatization are actively promoted and ensured so people can do their best work and be their best selves.
A comparative sociologist, Lamont’s research focuses on non-material ways of bestowing recognition and affirming identities, practices that greatly enhance workplace culture, employee retention, collaboration, productivity and society as a whole. As seen in her new TED Talk, “How to Heal a Divided World,” her work also helps leaders identify and address recognition gaps that may be inadvertently overlooked by the organization, but not by the employee.
Author or coauthor of a dozen books and edited volumes and hundreds of articles and chapters on a range of topics including culture, social boundaries, racism, social change and successful societies, Lamont’s upcoming book examines the challenge of creating collective well-being in the face of mass inequity.
“As we face alarming levels of inequality in nearly every country, it is urgent that we extend dignity and respect to the largest number of people, regardless of their beliefs, affiliations or the color of their skin,” explains Lamont. “We can each play a part in creating more inclusive organizations and societies, especially corporations, policy makers and cultural entrepreneurs.”
From 2014 to 2021, Lamont served as director of Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and now leads its research cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion. Well-known to global audiences as a comparative educator, researcher and speaker, she became interested in boundaries – sexual, racial, class, professional and spatial – while growing up in Canada and seeing how linguistic divisions changed narratives. Her simple message, which reaches across social and socioeconomic divides, is that it is possible to bolster dignity across the social spectrum by using new narratives. Helping people understand how to develop such narratives is where she does her best work.
Lamont has conducted extensive research on the corrosive effects of stigmas, including how various stigmatized groups have responded to exclusion in the United States, Europe, Brazil and Israel. Conversely, she also examines success stories, pointing to a reduction in stigmas around obese people, African Americans and people with HIV/AIDs.
“I am glad to see young adults and agents of change promoting destigmatization, but organizations can play a powerful role in expanding recognition to the largest number of citizens,” Lamont explains. “By becoming more inclusive we also invite in more ideas, strengthen teamwork and build trust. It is our moral obligation to ensure people feel part of the greater whole at work, in their communities and in the world.”
Michèle Lamont is Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard University. She co-chairs the advisory board to the 2021-22 UN Human Development Report “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a World in Transformation.” Recent honors include a Carnegie fellowship (2019-2021), a Russell Sage Foundation fellowship (2019-2020), the 2017 Erasmus Prize and honorary doctorates from six countries. From 2016 to 2017, she served as the 108th President of the American Sociological Association.
Michèle Lamont is available to educate your organization via virtual and in-person interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.
Seeing Others: How Recognition Works―and How It Can Heal a Divided World
From internationally renowned sociologist Michèle Lamont comes a game-changing argument on the meaning of achievement, calculation of worth, and what we have come to value.
Her forthcoming book, “Seeing Others” takes a broad perspective — using Lamont’s oeuvre and new, original research — to describe how we can and ought to shape our “scripts” of success to the benefit of generations to come.
Conferring importance on the material and the professional, we judge ourselves and others in terms of self-reliance, competition, accomplishment, and wealth. In an era of growing inequality, these narratives loom larger. As they do, many have come to think of themselves as worthless.
Indeed, forty years of neoliberalism has had a negative impact across the class spectrum—on mental health, on our collective sense of overwhelm and overwork. Reimagining the kind of world we want is now a necessity. And, it is already happening.
Lamont’s point is simple: We all decide who matters every day. Dignity is directly connected to the extent to which a person is seen by others. As such, recognition—the quest for respect—should be an ingredient of every social interaction on the street, with agents of change, and in the halls of power.
“Seeing Others” fills a gaping hole left by economics and psychology which have, to date, driven our thinking with a focus on nudging, grit, and resource redistribution. These ideas overlook how crucial narratives—the stories we tell to understand our world—are to moving our focus from having to being. This book is a clarion call: by reducing stigma, we put change within reach at the emotional, social, and societal levels.
Thinking Differently About Differences: Build Trust and Improve Culture by Actively Promoting Inclusion
When it comes to building a healthy culture of inclusion, many organizations talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. That’s a missed opportunity, says Harvard University Professor Michèle Lamont, a renowned authority on social resilience, inclusion and stigma transformation. Lamont helps organizations go beyond checking boxes to improving workplace culture, employee retention, collaboration and productivity by helping them create conditions where dignity, equality, respect and destigmatization are actively promoted and ensured so people can do their best work and be their best selves. In this talk, she teaches leaders how to identify their blind spots and become aware of their narratives around who matters and who doesn’t.
Non-Material Incentives for Attracting and Retaining Talent
Organizations can raise salaries all they want but attracting and retaining loyal employees is not all about money, says Harvard University Professor Michèle Lamont, a renowned authority on individual and collective wellness and group transformation. Drawing on her decades of research, which shows that dignity, respect and inclusion are core aspects of employee satisfaction, she discusses the harms caused by intended or unintended exclusion, the need to combat stigmas and non-material incentives for building trust and loyalty. By creating conditions where people feel respected and valued, organizations achieve a win-win.
Cultivate Future Leaders and Transform Your Organization by Promoting a Sense of Belonging
Organizational leaders tasked with grooming employees to eventually lead may find it difficult. Some may even feel threatened while others may lack to the right skill set. In this talk, Harvard University Professor Michèle Lamont, a renowned authority on social resilience, inclusion and group transformation, discusses the importance of recognition and membership – for instance a positive message an organization sends to an employee about belonging. She then outlines the many ways organizations and employees benefit from giving people the tools they need to advance and eventually lead, and highlights why creating conditions where dignity, equality, respect, inclusion and destigmatization are actively promoted and ensured benefits everyone involved.
Is Your DEI Progress Undermined by Attention Inequality?
October 24, 2022
Culture Shift: Q&A With Sociologist Michèle Lamont
June 17, 2020
Building Big Ideas (Audio)
May 12, 2020
March 1, 2021
Michèle Lamont on The Sociology of Inequality
February 16, 2021
Sociologist to Speak on Inequality and Stigmatization
January 24, 2018
Erasmus Prize 2017 to Canadian Sociologist Michèle Lamont
February 21, 2017
The Big Picture: Social Solidarity
November 13, 2017
Sociology Professor Explores Racial Identities in New Book
November 1, 2016
What Makes Teams Tick
Seeing Others: How Recognition Works―and How It Can Heal a Divided World
(Atria/One Signal Publishers, September 2023)
Recreating a Plausible Future: Combining Cultural Repertoires in Unsettled Times
(Sociological Science, May 2023)
European Studies: Past, Present and Future
(Agenda Publishing, April 2020)
Inequality as a Multidimensional Process
(Daedalus, Summer 2019)
How to Publish, but Most Importantly, Why
(Sociologica, May 2019)
How Can Cultural Sociology Help Us Understand Contemporary Chinese Society?
(The Journal of Chinese Sociology, 2018)
Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel
(Princeton University Press, November 2018)
Cultural Sociology and China
(The Journal of Chinese Sociology, October 2018)
Addressing Recognition Gaps: Destigmatization and the Reduction of Inequality
(American Sociological Review, May 2018)
The Trump/Brexit Moment: Causes and Consequences
(Wiley Online Library, November 2017)
Prisms of Inequality: Moral Boundaries, Exclusion, and Academic Evaluation
(SSRN, December 2017)
Responses to Stigmatization in Comparative Perspective (Ethnic and Racial Studies)
(Routledge, September 2012)
Social Resilience in the Neo-Liberal Era
(Cambridge University Press, February 2013)
Social Knowledge in the Making
(University of Chicago Press, July 2012)
Money, Morals, and Manners: The Culture of the French and the American Upper-Middle Class (Morality and Society Series)
(University of Chicago Press, April 2012)
Successful Societies: How Institutions and Culture Affect Health
(Cambridge University Press, August 2009)
How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment
(Harvard University Press, July 2009)
The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration
(Harvard University Press, June 2009)
Praise for “Seeing Others"
“Michèle Lamont is one of the most prominent analysts of culture and identity in the world today. In this new book she brings her expertise as scholar to a new role as public intellectual. She shows that asking how we see others and how they see themselves has important implications for inequality and for practical efforts to address that growing scourge of contemporary society.”
"Michèle Lamont's book 'Seeing Others' is so important for this time we're living through -- as our country grapples with changing ideas of "who matters" and how we can move to a more equitable and understanding nation. Her extensive research encompasses the intersectionality that is the key to making a better world for us all. A must read."
"Centering dignity in too often undignified times, Michèle Lamont has given us a powerful new lens for seeing each other, as a way toward seeing a better, fairer, and more just future for all. She achieves this brilliantly through an astonishing array of interviews with change agents across our social spectrum who understand the challenges of our moment and the potential for reframing them through narratives of radical inclusion. Meaningful healing, these pages reveal in compelling detail, must come through the universal recognition that everyone struggles, everyone dreams, everyone matters, and everyone wants to be seen. It is difficult to imagine a more timely and original work of social analysis, or one more welcome in these troubled times."
“Equality is not only about income, wealth and the power to decide about your own life. It is also and mostly about recognition and dignity, mutual respect and empathy, deliberation and participation. In this powerful new book, Michèle Lamont illuminates how recognition must be part of the post-neoliberalism agenda. A must-read!”
“Harvard sociologist Michèle Lamont has written a landmark book that unpacks how 'recognition chains' work in politics, culture, and in our day-to-day interactions with others. 'Seeing Others' will change the way you see the world, and yourself.”
Praise for “Getting Respect"
“‘Getting Respect’ brings a powerful comparative lens to understanding the experiences of disadvantaged minorities. With fresh data from the United States, Brazil, and Israel, Michèle Lamont and her colleagues sketch a rich portrait of responses to encounters with discrimination. This ambitious book reveals anew the deep complexity, contextual variation, and poignant human meaning of ethnoracial disadvantage. It is a must-read for all those interested in the contemporary dynamics of ethnoracial identities and struggles.”
“A stunningly successful comparative analysis of stigmatization and discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel, ‘Getting Respect’ shows how cultural repertories and group boundaries that exist at the national level shape individual experiences of racism, self-worth, and respect. This book is a major addition to the study of race and discrimination and a huge contribution to macrocomparative sociology.”
“W. E. B. Dubois once asked, ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’ This ambitious, evocative book takes a comparative, decidedly international approach to offer a substantive answer. ‘Getting Respect’ is a rigorous social scientific attempt to think through what stigmatization feels like to the stigmatized and will be valuable reading for scholars and students alike.”
“Focusing on how victims of discrimination across countries protect their self-worth, ‘Getting Respect’ is a much-needed addition to the study of everyday racism. This book is a fascinating read, thick with information, and rich in contextualized explanations. It will be an excellent resource for education, community empowerment, and policymaking.”