Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, served as the 108th president of the American Sociological Association in 2016-17. Her term took an unexpected turn with the election of Donald Trump in November 2016: it befell on her to take a leadership role in defending the professional interests of sociologists and the conditions for academic freedom. This meant responding to several of Trump’s policies and executive orders. For instance, working closely with ASA staff, she contributed a response to an executive order banning travel to seven Muslim countries in February 2017; in the summer, she created the ASA Federal Statistics Working Group charged with the protection of federal data, which were threatened in various departments (e.g., data on housing segregation collected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). She also spearheaded the creation of the Sociology Action Network (SAN) which will connect NGOs and other organizations with sociologists eager to put their expertise at their service (SAN, which was approved by the ASA Council in August 2017, will be formally launched in winter 2019).
Looking back on her term in an essay forthcoming in Sociological Forum, Lamont reflects: “The ASA provided me with both a unique outlet through which to channel my energies [at the start of the Trump presidency], as well as a much-needed and generally enthusiastic audience!”
Lamont organized the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association around the theme of “Culture, Inequalities, and Social Inclusion Across the Globe.” Bringing over 4,500 sociologists to Montreal, these meetings were widely regarded as particularly successful. Lamont’s presidential lecture is now available in American Sociological Review (June 2018 issue), titled “Addressing Recognition Gaps: Destigmatization and the Reduction of Inequality.” This paper draws attention to “recognition gaps,” defined as disparities in worth and cultural membership between groups in a society. It describes how neoliberalism promotes growing recognition gaps and analyzes how experiences of stigma and destigmatization are enabled and constrained by various contextual factors and actors, including institutions, cultural repertoires, knowledge workers, and social movement activists. The paper concludes by proposing a research agenda for the sociology of recognition and destigmatization, and by sketching how social scientists, policymakers, organizations, and citizens can contribute to the reduction of recognition gaps.