Culture and Inequality through Various Prisms

September 1, 2016
Michele Lamont

This August, Michèle Lamont began a term as the 108th President of the American Sociological Association. This honor came with a number of responsibilities, including organizing the 2017 ASA Annual Meeting. She chose as a theme “Culture, Inequalities, and Social Inclusion across the Globe.” Participants can look forward to plenary sessions on topics such as “Dignity, Morality, and the Bridging of Group Boundaries,” “The Politics of Distribution and Recognition,” “The Pursuit of Inclusion through Law, Policies, and Narratives,” and much more.

With its emphasis on the global and inclusion, this thematic focus was inspired by a new book, Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel, which she coauthored with six colleagues including two recent graduates from our program, Graziella Moraes Silva and Jessica S. Welburn. Just released by Princeton University Press, this book has involved as research assistants over a dozen graduate and undergraduate students from our department over the last decade. The team systematically analyzed social exclusion across national and other contexts and utilized the analytical tools of cultural sociology to consider how experiences and responses are shaped by groupness, cultural repertoires, and other factors. This book contributes to ongoing debates about collective and individual mobilization against injustice, the impact of neoliberalism on concepts of self-worth, the strengthening of group boundaries, recognition and claim-making, and many other burning issues.

Similar questions are taken up in the September issue of Social Science & Medicine, which Lamont has coedited with colleagues from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others, on the topic of “Mutuality, Health Promotion, and Collective Cultural Change,” One of the articles in this issue, “Destigmatization and Health: Cultural Constructions and the Long-term Reduction of Stigma,” which Lamont coauthored with graduate students Matthew Clair and Caitlin Daniel, compares cultural process of destigmatization of individuals with HIV/AIDs, the obese, and African Americans in the United States over recent decades. Just as is the case for the ASA thematic program and Getting Respect, this special issue sets a multi-pronged agenda for cumulative theory building concerning the nexus between culture and inequality, by focusing on the micro, meso, and macro transformation of meanings associated with groups. To learn more about this and other ongoing related research, please join us at the ASA Annual Meeting in Montreal on August 12-15, 2017.