Peggy Levitt

Peggy Levitt
Curriculum Vitae
(781) 283-2186
B.A., Brandeis University; M.S., Columbia University; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Peggy Levitt

Mildred Lane Kemper Professor of Sociology

Interests include global arts and culture, museums, international migration, transnational relations and processes, development, and religion.

In addition to teaching at Wellesley, Peggy is an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University where she co-directs The Politics and Social Change Workshop. She is co-founder of the Global (De) Centre (with Maurice Crul) and a Robert Schuman Fellow at European University Institute (2017-2019). Peggy received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Maastricht in 2014 and from the University of Helsinki in 2017. 

Current Projects

I am currently working on three separate but related research strands.  The first concerns the ways in which migration and mobility are transforming social protection.  When large numbers of individuals are long-term residents of countries without full membership, how do they protect and provide for themselves across borders? My second research area concerns the role of culture, cultural policies, and cultural institutions in creating and (re)creating increasingly diverse nations.  We do not pay enough attention to the cultural dynamics and discourses that influence social and political inclusion. My last book, Artifacts and Allegiances: How Museums Put the Nation and the World on Display, examined how museums around the world shape the relationship between nationalism and cosmopolitanism.  My current work looks at changing global literary and artistic canons—who gets included, who gets to decide, and whose interests are served.  And finally, addressing cultural inequality requires understanding how knowledge production and dissemination influences what we see and do not see.  My third research agenda is to establish a network of social scientists, humanists, and practitioners from around the world to create a more inclusive methodological and conceptual tool kit.

1. Transnational Social Protection (TSP)

The social contract between citizens and states is national, but people’s lives are not. What are sending states doing to protect emigrants, and what are receiving states doing to deal with long-term non-citizens?  What kinds of cooperative, bi-lateral arrangements are emerging and, more broadly, what does this mean about the nature of social welfare and social protections going forward?  How do issues of welfare and social protection interact with social inclusion, integration, and relations between migrant communities and host societies? We have some answers from Europe and the US/Mexican border, and from particular sectors such as health and senior care, but we need to broaden our scope and extend it to other regions.

2. Move Over, Mona Lisa. Move Over Jane Eyre

This project explores the social, political, and economic conditions and institutions that allow artists and writers from what have been culturally peripheral regions to gain greater global prominence in the English-speaking Global North.  Using qualitative methods, including ethnographies at galleries, book fairs, museums, cultural events, document reviews, and interviews with cultural creators and codifiers (i.e. critics, publishers, collectors, patrons, curators) in Lebanon, Argentina, and South Korea, I examine what factors expand the global literary and artistic canons and how they vary across regions, time, and genre. In what ways are the art and literary worlds rethinking categories such as canons, literacy, and national culture that might lead to greater cultural inclusiveness?

3. The Global (De) Centre

My last set of research activities concerns new epistemologies and ontologies.  Maurice Crul and I are working to create the Global (De) Centre, a network of scholars around the world who are all working broadly on questions about migrating people and migrating cultures.  We want to create new conversations that more effectively capture contemporary sites of encounter between mobile and non-mobile people of different races, ethnicities, and religions, and to look carefully at the national and transnational institutions and cultural products and representations that arise in response. Doing so requires going beyond post-colonial and critical theory by bringing in new ideas and approaches from around the world, and by moving beyond parts of the Euro-American and critical canons while refashioning others. We are not suggesting throwing the whole baby out with the bathwater.  From our perspective, however, mainstream, post-colonial, cultural studies, and critical theories have not been decolonized nor decentered enough.  More importantly, they too often stop at deconstruction without charting a path toward reconstruction and beyond.

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