Reflecting on Diversity

A conversation between cultural sociologist Michèle Lamont, winner of the 2017 Erasmus Prize, and writer and historian Michael Ignatieff.

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beeld Michèle Lamont & Michael Ignatieff The subject of discussion is the role of knowledge institutes in the debate on diversity. Never before has the theme of ‘diversity’ been so topical. The subject tops the agenda in the political arena, in the media, in the academic world, and in many other places within society. We often turn to knowledge institutes like the Rijksmuseum in the debate on establishing new frameworks. Knowledge and diversity have been major themes in the work of both Michèle Lamont and Michael Ignatieff for many years. That makes them eminently suitable to illuminate the subject. The conversation, which will be held in English, will be moderated by Lennart Booij.

Erasmus Prize

The Erasmus Prize is awarded each year to a person or institute that has made an exceptional contribution to the field of humanities, social sciences and the arts, in Europe and elsewhere. In the choice of winners, the emphasis is put on humanistic values such as tolerance, cultural pluralism and undogmatic, critical thinking. The Erasmus Prize has been in existence for almost 60 years. Among the previous winners are the artists Oskar Kokoschka, Marc Chagall, Charlie Chaplin and Marguerite Yourcenar, and recent recipients have included A.S. Byatt, Ian Buruma and Wikipedia. The Erasmus Prize is presented by His Majesty the King.

Michèle Lamont

Michèle Lamont (Toronto, 1957) is Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, where she also holds the posts of Professor of African and African American Studies and Professor of European Studies. She receives the prestigious Erasmus Prize this year for her committed contribution to the study of the relation between knowledge, power, and diversity. Among her best-known works are How Professors Think (2009) and Getting Respect (2016). Lamont has devoted her academic career to examining how social conditions create inequality and social exclusion, and how stigmatized groups retain their self-esteem. She also studies processes of knowledge production. In doing this, she shows that the presence of diversity often leads to more vital and productive mutual relations in both social and academic contexts.

Michael Ignatieff

Michael Ignatieff (Toronto, 1947) is a historian, jurist and art critic. He has taught at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, and has written various biographies and novels. After a period of involvement in Canadian politics, he returned to academia as a professor of human rights. He is currently Rector of the Central European University in Budapest. Financed by the philanthropist George Soros, this university has come under severe pressure in Hungary because Prime Minister Orbán considers it to be a liberal, western and hostile NGO. In his latest book, entitled The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World, Ignatieff engages fully in the intellectual debate. He takes an unconventional position on the theme of diversity. NRC newspaper recently cited him as saying: “There is a strange and somewhat worrying way of dealing with diversity. Progressive liberals are forever talking about it, without it ever involving them. Without, for example, living in neighbourhoods that are diverse in any way. It is a demand placed on others. The other objection is that diversity is not in itself a virtue. Diversity is a fact. It becomes a virtue if we actually learn from one another, if with live together and share something.”

In collaboration with the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation and the WRR.


Friday 24 November, 16:00 - 17.15


Rijksmuseum Auditorium


€ 10 (exl. museum visit)