Dark theatre with red velvet seats
Harney Program, Munk School

Munk School to welcome world-renowned sociologist Michèle Lamont at October 27 guest lecture

In his bestselling, Depression-era book The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams laid out the concept of the American Dream. It is the notion that no matter what class or circumstance one is born into, upward mobility is possible for every person who works hard, sacrifices, and keeps a firm grip on their proverbial bootstraps. Adams’ idea certainly held fast in the decades that followed its inception. But in a post-Covid era where inequality is becoming more extreme and a mental health crisis is cutting across social class, people are seeking out new sources of inspiration. On October 27, Michèle Lamont, Harvard University professor and Munk School distinguished fellow, will explore what new narratives are appearing that offer alternatives to neoliberal ideals at an in-person lecture called Who Matters?​ How to Redefine Worth in Our Divided Societies.

“With growing inequality, the American dream is increasingly out of reach, especially when it comes to migrants and ethno-racial minorities, says Ayelet Shachar, R. F. Harney Professor and Director of the Munk School’s Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies Program. “We need new narratives that promote inclusion and recognition that go beyond traditional measures of ‘worth’ and self-recognition.”Michele Lamont

Shachar, who is also a professor of Law, Political Science, and Global Affairs, will moderate the upcoming lecture. 

Lamont is a professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard. A cultural and comparative sociologist, she is the author or coauthor of four books and the editor of a dozen collective volumes/journal issues and over one hundred articles and chapters on a range of topics including culture and inequality, racism and stigma, academia and knowledge, social change and successful societies, and qualitative methods. Her new book “Who Matters; How to Redefine Worth in our Divided World” will be published by Simon and Schuster (US) and Penguin (UK) in fall 2023. In it, Lamont interviews Gen Zs and change agents who are helping to shift the boundaries of who is considered worthy of inclusion and belonging in today’s society by offering narratives that fall outside the neoliberal script of self.

“Michèle is unique in her ability to speak to Gen Zs with the same ease in which she chaired the advisory board to the 2022 UN Human Development Report,” says Shachar. “I hope that her inspiring narrative of hope will resonate with our students and the broader U of T community. Her lecture may help shape a future in which cultural membership will be defined according to a plurality of criteria of worth and belonging, overcoming the persistent legal and economic barriers that many face today.”

Lamont’s talk is the latest instalment of the Cadario Visiting Lecture in Public Policy series, made possible thanks to the generous support of Paul Cadario, another distinguished fellow at the Munk School. Click to learn more and register for this event.