Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Michael Kennedy

Michael Kennedy

Michael Kennedy

Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs


Michael D. Kennedy (@Prof_Kennedy) is professor of sociology and international and public affairs at Brown University. Throughout his career, Kennedy has addressed East European social movements, national identifications, and systemic change.  For the last 15 years, he also has worked in the sociology of public knowledge, global transformations, and cultural politics, focusing most recently on social movements, universities, and solidarity within and across nations. His book, Globalizing Knowledge: Intellectuals, Universities and Publics in Transformation addresses those themes with extensions found here. Recent political transformations within the USA and across the world has moved him toward a more public sociology, but in the coming decade, he will also research projections of identity and transformations of human and social capacity.

Kennedy was the University of Michigan's first vice provost for international affairs in addition to being director of an institute and five centers and programs at UM; he also served as the Howard R. Swearer Director of Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies.  Kennedy concluded 9 years of service on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors at the Social Science Research Council in 2015 and now serves on the Governing Board of European Humanities University and as chair of the Advisory Board of the Open Society Foundations' Higher Education Support Program.   


Globalizing Knowledge

Through Globalizing Knowledge, Kennedy explains how intellectuals and their knowledge institutions and networks shape, and are shaped by, global transformations. This cultural political sociology of knowledge and change is informed by his analysis of public engagements around inequality, nationalism, solidarity and energy across the world, especially in the USA, Europe and Eurasia.  His recently published book, Globalizing Knowledge http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=24607, has led to a number of lectures and book panels whose extensions are available here: 


Solidarity and Social Change

Kennedy’s first book concerned the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1980-81, but he now returns to the cultural politics and social movements underlying its translation across different contexts.  This research arc finds expression in three broader collaborations:

  1. Through the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and its partner in the project, Foundation Jean Jaurès, Kennedy participates in an international initiative committed to the development of a  "New Global Progressive Construct" building on his past work with FEPS around solidarity http://www.feps-europe.eu/assets/94d2a134-9f28-4efb-9c0f-29748cb03310/next_8_framing_a_progressive_narrative.pdf

  2. Together with colleagues in Kosova and building most recently on this work https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-d-kennedy-linda-gusia/we-are-seeing-you-protesting-violent-democracies-in-kosova, he works to figure how projects around social justice, especially around opposition to violence and restitution for its victims, might realize greater recognition and effect in international policy regimes.

  3. Together with colleagues in Poland http://watson.brown.edu/events/2015/globalizing-solidarity-step-step and in the United States https://slought.org/resources/love_driven_politics, he explores the ways in which different conceptions of love and solidarity might inform political dialogue and social transformation

Projections of Identity and Transformations of Capacity

In this research arc, Kennedy analyzes and elaborates cultural practices that enable the transformation of human and social capacity.  

a) Recognizing the necessity of attachment to realize transformation, he has explored his own hometown’s search for grounding through the memorialization of a lost industry, Bethlehem Steel https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/biography/v037/37.1.kennedy.pdf

b) Together with colleagues from Warsaw and Providence, he has is studying the travel and translation of capacity-building social entrepreneurship http://watson.brown.edu/events/2015/between-criticism-and-co-action-meeting-need-new-kind-relationship-between-policy-makers  

c) He is currently writing about the process and consequence of transformations of self and community through heroic identifications and artistic projections across national and social differences.

d) Kennedy also anticipates in the coming years to turn his work teaching about Martial Arts, Culture and Society (https://www.academia.edu/4319567/_2013_Martial_Arts_Culture_and_Society_Fall_2013_Syllabus_in_Sociology_for_students_at_Brown_University) into a more general cultural transformational sociology that articulates proprioceptive awareness in social change.


(2016) “Communication as Perspective: An Interview with Michael Kennedy” excerpt from an interview with Michael Kennedy conducted by Labinot Kunushevci University of Prishtina (1/13/2016) Parts 1 (http://policytrajectories.asa-comparative-historical.org/2016/12/communication-as-perspective-an-interview-with-michael-kennedy/) and 2 (http://policytrajectories.asa-comparative-historical.org/2016/12/communication-as-perspective-part-2-of-2/)  Conducted as part of a series of conversations for a volume entitled Communication as Perspective: Interviews with Contemporary Sociologists, in prep, ed. Labinot Kunushevci. Other interviewees include Anthony Giddens, George Ritzer, Patricia Hill Collins, Liah Greenfeld, Hayriye Erbaş, Jasminka Lažnjak, Raewyn Connell, Chua Beng Huat, Barry Wellman, Margaret Abraham, and John Holloway.

(2016) “Policy and Sociology in Context” Parts 1 (http://policytrajectories.asa-comparative-historical.org/2016/09/policy-and-sociology-in-context-part-1/) and 2 (http://policytrajectories.asa-comparative-historical.org/2016/09/policy-and-sociology-in-context-part-2/ Linda Gusia and Michael D. Kennedy,  Policy Trajectories, 

(2016) “The Interdisciplinarity of Globalizing Knowledge” Items: Insights from the Social Sciences, Social Science Research Council  http://items.ssrc.org/the-interdisciplinarity-of-globalizing-knowledge/

(2015) “We Are Seeing You: Protesting Violent Democracies in Kosova”, Michael D. Kennedy and Linda Gusia. Open Democracy / ISA RC-47: Open Movements, 11 December https://opendemocracy.net/michael-d-kennedy-linda-gusia/we-are-seeing-you-protesting-violent-democracies-in-kosova

(2015) Globalizing Knowledge: Intellectuals, Universities, and Publics in Transformation (Stanford University Press) (for the book’s commentaries, etc. see https://www.academia.edu/10282109/Extensions_of_Globalizing_Knowledge

(2015) Substantial Revision to (2001)  “Eastern European Studies: Culture” in James D. Wright (editor in chief) International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, second edition. Volume 6. Oxford: Elsevier (pp. 805-809).

(2014) “Rewriting the Death and Afterlife of a Corporation: Bethlehem Steel” Biography 37:1(242-74)

(2014) “From Affirmative to Critical Solidarity in Politics” pp. 30-47 in Ernst Stetter, Karl Duffek and Ania Skrzypek (eds.) Framing a New Progressive Narrative FEPS Belgium. http://www.feps-europe.eu/en/news/586_next-left-vol-viii


Sociology 1950: Senior Seminar concentrators in Sociology

Advanced research seminar for sociology concentrators. Students take each semester in senior year to work on an honors thesis. Participants examine methods for analyzing, writing, and presenting thesis material and apply peer review techniques in assessing each other's work. Culminates in presentation of thesis to the department. Students doing independent study research may also participate with the instructor's permission. Required for "honors" in sociology. WRIT

SOC1871R-S01 Knowledge Networks and Global Transformation

How do refined knowledge and the social relations that organize and distribute it influence changes in the institutions, inequalities and cultural systems and practices that define particular world regions and global formations? And how do global transformations influence the trajectories of knowledge production themselves? We will examine particular knowledge-identified agents, including universities, research institutes, think tanks, and professional associations, to consider why they approach global transformations in the way that they do. And we will consider how particular kinds of global transformations, from the end of the cold war and the transformation of information/communication technology to the last financial crisis, affect knowledge production itself. By exploring intersections between global complexity and reflexivity in this fashion, we hope to increase our own capacities for seeing the world not only as it is, but how knowledge might be used in making better alternatives for the future. Enrollment limited to 20 juniors and seniors. WRIT

News|Recent News

A Gathering Seeks Levers to Rebuild Public Good (Watson Institute faculty mentioned)

October 25, 2017 Nonprofit Quarterly

Public Policy Fellow Marc Dunkelman and sociology professor Michael Kennedy are mentioned in an article about a panel they participated in at the inaugural Greater Good Gathering, a conference "aimed to look 'deeply and cross-disciplinarily at how the means for addressing and promoting the Greater Good may be changing in today's world.'" 


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