Michael Kennedy

Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs
111 Thayer Street, Room 226
Areas of Expertise Democracy & Elections, Ethics, Race, Identity & Ethnicity, Social Movements
Areas of Interest Globalizing knowledge and universities, social movements, cultural politics and social change in Europe and Eurasia, cultural politics and energy security in Europe and Eurasia


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 and systemic change with recent engagements around both Ukraine and Kosova. 

For the last 20 years, he also has worked in the sociology of public knowledge, global transformations, and cultural politics, with particular focus on social movements and universities. He continues to work in global and transnational sociology, focusing now on how various articulations of difference and solidarity travel. Recent political transformations within the USA and across the world have moved him toward a more knowledge cultural and public sociology, focusing especially on how communities of discourse use various kinds of questions, styles of reasoning, and forms of evidence to identify the qualities of justice defining various forms of social organization and modes of transformation. In the coming decade, he will also research projections of identity and transformations of human and social capacity. In the fall of 2022 he serves as Interim Director of the Brown University Contemplative Studies concentration

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, as chair, and the Board of Directors at the Social Science Research Council in 2015, a two year term on the International Academic Advisors' Board of Singapore Management University's School of Social Sciences in 2017, a 3 year term on the Governing Board of European Humanities University in 2019, and 5 years as chair and co-chair of two education programs for the Open Society Foundations in 2021.  Within sociology, he was the chair of the Global and Transnational Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association in 2019-20. 


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," has led to a number of lectures and book panels whose extensions are available here. Together with former Brown University student Merone Tadesse, he has recently extended this work to engage decolonizing universities and racism.

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 value 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 Brown University graduate students Prabh Kehal and Laura Garbes, he develops a knowledge cultural sociology addressing how knowledge’s symbols, schemas, institutions, and networks shape the terms of social reproduction and transformations (https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756384/obo-9780199756384-0221.xml?)

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. https://www.aaihs.org/the-black-panther-white-supremacy-and-double-consciousness/ 

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.


(2020) Kennedy, Michael D. “Normative Frames and Systemic Imperatives: Gouldner, Szelényi and New Class Fracture” in pp 25-51 in Tamás Demeter (eds.), Intellectuals, Inequalities and Transitions: Prospects for a Critical Sociology Leiden-Boston: Brill.

(2019) “National Cultures and Racial Formations: Articulating the Knowledge Cultures of Kłoskowska and Du Bois”Kultura i Społeczeństwo 63:3:7-30. http://www.kulturaispoleczenstwo.pl/?fbclid=IwAR2_rVjeMO55XZiztGGSqUNajnV6ARk8wC4KCNEDgQOxQikOxDVEL5kDDfA

(2019) Kennedy, Michael D. and Merone Tadesse, “Towards a Theory and Practice of Diversity and Inclusiveness in Globalizing US Universities: The Transformational Solidarity of Knowledge Activism” Youth and Globalization 1: 254-281 https://brill.com/view/journals/yogo/1/2/article-p254_254.xml

(2019) Kehal, Prabhdeep Singh; Laura Garbes and Michael D. Kennedy. “Critical Sociology of Knowledge.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology. Ed. Lynette Spillman. New York: Oxford University Press (https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756384/obo-9780199756384-0221.xml)

(2018) “Political Imaginaries and University Possibilities: Responsibility, Conflict and the Transformations of Brown University and European Humanities University” Crossroads (Perekrestki) 1:25-40. http://journals.ehu.lt/index.php/perekrestki/article/view/164/147  

(2018) “The Black Panther, White Supremacy, Double Consciousness”. Black Perspectives: African American Intellectual History Society https://www.aaihs.org/the-black-panther-white-supremacy-and-double-consciousness/

(2018) Kennedy, Michael D., Prabhdeep S. Kehal and Laura Garbes. “Excellence, Reflexivity and Racism: On Sociology’s Nuclear Contradiction and Its Abiding Crisis” Critical Historical Sociology http://chs.asa-comparative-historical.org/excellence-reflexivity-and-racism-on-sociologys-nuclear-contradiction-and-its-abiding-crisis/ 

(2015) Kennedy, Michael D. Globalizing Knowledge: Intellectuals, Universities and Publics in Transformation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


Spring 2020: Social Forces, and Introduction to Sociology

Spring 2020: Martial Arts, Culture and Society

Fall 2019: Ethics, Justice and Transformations of Engaged Scholarship

Fall 2019: Contradictions, Solidarities and Reflexivities

Recent News

In an essay written for Steve Ahlquist, Michael Kennedy discusses how "the Democratic Party Primary to run for Rhode Island’s Congressional District 1 seat seems to revolve around endorsements and money..."
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Michael Kennedy comments for Clarín, "This was a better speech than I could have imagined. With his emphasis on jobs and justice, his energy and humor, his openness to the responsible Republican, and his deep commitment to decency, dignity, and democracy."
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