Peggy Levitt sociologist, author and professor

Research & Activities

My current research addresses two broad sets of questions. 

The first concerns cultural and intellectual inequality and what we can do about it. If we are all global citizens now, by choice or by force, with great success or great struggle, what is the cultural common ground that we share? Who gets to define it and whose interests does it serve? How can we create a more inclusive conversation that treats all ways of asking and answering questions equally? What do we learn by asking the same question in different parts of the world that we do not see from where we stand ourselves? 

Redressing cultural and intellectual inequality is a battle that must be fought on many fronts. One is to identify the institutions and actors that enable people working outside the cultural centers of power to get invited in or to create venues of their own. Another is to ask how a more inclusive set of ideas gets incorporated into what we teach. To truly change the rules of the game, students must be exposed to a broader pedagogical canon. 

My second set of questions concerns the transformation of social welfare. The idea that social rights are something we get access to on the basis of where we live or—where we are citizens—is out-of-date, not only for people who cross borders, but sometimes for those who don’t. Nation-states are cutting back on basic social welfare provisions to their citizens. At the same time, increasing numbers of non-citizens who live for extended periods within their borders also need social protection. Which state (the country that migrants come from or where they settle) is responsible for their health care, education or retirement? What kinds of new institutions, be they supranational or sub-national, step in when the nation-state fails to provide? To answer these questions, I research the new kinds of transnational social protection policies that are emerging in different regions of the world, who they benefit, and who they leave out.