Thomas Cushman

Thomas Cushman
Curriculum Vitae
(781) 283-2142
B.A., Saint Michael’s College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Virginia

Thomas Cushman

Deffenbaugh de Hoyos Carlson Professor in the Social Sciences; Professor of Sociology

Areas of current research: sociological theory, dissent and freedom of expression, individualism, interdisciplinary approaches to freedom, and the sociology of controversial ideas. 

In the academic year 2018-2019, Professor Cushman is on leave from Wellesley College and will be a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Eudaimonia Institute at Wake Forest University ( where he will be involved with an interdisciplinary group of scholars exploring the elements of and the  institutions that support  human  flourishing.

In 2001, he founded and is currently editor-at-large of the Journal of Human Rights  In 2012, he founded The Freedom Project at Wellesley College, which aims to foster intellectual pluralism, debate, tolerance, and diversity of viewpoints at the College and served as its first director until 2018.  His efforts at Wellesley and in the world at-large have been to establish and reaffirm the importance of freedom of expression as the elemental foundation for liberal arts education, and the advancement of critical rationality and knowledge.  

His publications include Notes from Underground: Rock Music Counterculture in Russia, which was named as one of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Books in 1995; George Orwell: Into the 21st Century, with John Rodden (Paradigm, 2005); A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq, editor (University of California Press, 2005); Terror, Iraq and the Left: Christopher Hitchens and His Critics, with Simon Cottee (New York University Press, 2008); and The Religious in Responses to Mass Atrocity, edited with Thomas Brudholm (Cambridge University Press, 2009). He is the editor of The Routledge Handbook of Human Rights (2011), a standard reference work, which presents 60 original essays from leading scholars across the world and across the disciplines on all areas of human rights.

He is a Faculty Fellow at The Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University. He has been a Visiting Professor at Brandeis University and Birkbeck College, University of London and was an Honorary Professor in the Social Sciences at The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa from 2008-2011.

Professor Cushman has worked to establish a network of internships for Wellesley students in prominent organizations involved in the global movement to protect individual rights and freedoms:

Throughout his career, he has been actively involved in bringing social science perspectives to the understanding of public policy issues.  He has given talks in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, offered testimony to the U.S. Congress Committee on Foreign Relations on human rights issues, and writes and speaks often on public policy issues.  

Current Research Projects and Activities:

Why Freedom of Expression Matters (book)

An interdisciplinary theoretical, philosophical, and historical examination of the fundamental importance of freedom of expression to human well-being, the search for truth, and   the success of liberal democratic societies.

Courage and Conscience: The Elementary Forms of the Dissident Life (book)

A comparative-sociological and theoretical examination of the structures of thinking and actions that define the dissident as a “social type” in the modern world. The book stresses the important transformative power of civil courage in the face of authoritarian domination, the dissident as the embodiment of   human freedom, and as a model of what it means to be human in modernity.

The Journal of Controversial Ideas (journal)

Professor Cushman is a foundational Editorial Board member of a new journal, The Journal of Controversial Ideas, to be published in 2019 by Princeton University Press. The journal brings together scholars of a diverse and even antagonistic range of perspectives in order to facilitate debate on ideas considered dangerous by students, fellow academics and the lay public.