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September 21, 2006

Sociologist Neil Smelser Named to Kluge Center Chair of Countries and Cultures of the North

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has appointed Neil J. Smelser, professor emeritus of sociology at University of California, Berkeley, to the Chair of the Countries and Cultures of the North in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

Smelser, who served as director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, Calif., from 1994 to 2001, is considered by many to be one of the most highly respected sociologists of his time. He focuses his research on collective behavior.

At the Kluge Center, Smelser will work on a book titled “The Odyssey Experience,” which will examine a wide variety of interludes in the human experience such as leaves of absences, travel, pilgrimages and rituals. He will look at the psychological transformations that take place as a result of these activities.

Smelser began his academic career in the sociology department at the University of California at Berkeley in 1958. He was named professor emeritus in 1994. Smelser received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1952, studied as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford from 1952 to 1954 and earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard in 1958. At the age of 24, he co-authored “Economy and Society” with Talcott Parsons, his Harvard mentor.

Smelser is the author of 14 books, including “The Social Edges of Psychoanalysis” (University of California Press, 1999) and “Sociology” (Blackwell Publishers, 1994). In 2002 he co-edited the book “Terrorism: Perspectives from the Behavioral and Social Sciences.” Smelser is the former president of the American Sociological Association, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate, energize and distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information on fellowships, grants and programs, visit

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PR 06-174
ISSN 0731-3527

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