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Sociology Professor Michèle Lamont Wins Erasmus Prize

Sociology professor Michèle Lamont traveled to the Netherlands on Nov. 28 to receive the 2017 Erasmus Prize, one of the world’s top awards recognizing work in the humanities and social sciences.

The Erasmus Prize, named for Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus, is awarded annually to an individual who has “made an exceptional contribution to the humanities or the arts, in Europe and beyond.” It consists of a $159,000 cash award.

The prize’s foundation cited Lamont’s “devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power and diversity.” Lamont’s research at Harvard focuses on stigmatized groups and the cultural conditions of inequality, as well as ways that these groups can gain more respect in societies.

At the award ceremony, Lamont—who also directs the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs—met with members of the Dutch royal family, and said that the king and queen were “incredibly kind.” Queen Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti took a “particular interest in my work,” Lamont said, because of their shared interest in ending global poverty.

Lamont said she was allowed to invite 200 individuals to the award ceremony and 40 to the dinner afterwards, helping to make the event a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

According to Lamont, the ideas raised by her scholarship are gaining increasing importance because of today’s political climate. Recently, Lamont has published articles on the social and cultural implications of Donald Trump’s presidency, including works examining his rhetorical appeals to the white working class and criticisms of football players who knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.

In her 2000 book “The Dignity of Working Men,” Lamont investigated the mindsets and morals held by members of the working class in the United States and France, arguing that policymakers are increasingly ignoring the concerns of these workers.

This spring, Lamont will teach the undergraduate class Sociology 24: “Introduction to Social Inequality.”

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