Ronald Eyerman

Professor of Sociology

Ronald Eyerman's pictureRon Eyerman, B.A. The New School for Social Research, M.S. University of Oregon, Fil. dr. and Docent, University of Lund, faculty member at Yale since 2003: Yours has been the long and varied career of the true intellectual and cosmopolitan. As a working-class youth from Brooklyn and an adult learner, you understood the true meaning of an education and had a keen eye for injustice.

A veteran who served his country in Vietnam, you are an example of the wisdom of the GI Bill. You developed a love of social theory and deep thought, first as a reader and later as a practitioner. After an M.A. at the New School, and a stint as a telephone repairman in Oakland, you moved to Oregon for a Ph.D. and then met a philosopher who offered you funding to complete your degree at Lund. It was there that you rose to become a noted expert on critical theory and a beloved leader of sociology throughout Scandinavia. Never one to sit on his laurels, you moved on to become an acclaimed expert on social movements and then a pioneer of cultural sociology before you returned to the United States to become a professor at Yale. Your globally influential work on social movements demonstrated that producing new cultural knowledge is as important to their success as powerful organization. You also showed how artistic expression often becomes an effective form of social protest.

Your restless intelligence did not stop at social theory, social movements, or the social power of the arts, since in more recent years you also have been a pioneer in the field of cultural trauma. In a succession of powerful books, you have looked deep into the abyss of collective suffering as you explored and explained with compassion and insight the evils of slavery, political assassination, war, and natural disasters.

You are a wonderful teacher: one of your former TAs noted that your lecture style displayed both “warmth and enthusiasm for the subject,” making it look “positively easy to convey complicated ideas in ways that were both straightforward and inviting.” You have been a valued and pedagogically generous mentor to many generations of students, a truly masterful exponent of the Yale undergraduate seminar, and a popular and effective administrator who always found time to listen to those in need.

Despite your intellectual achievement, you have remained modest, a down-to-earth figure around campus and at conferences, who was content to let others take the glory. A fine painter whose canvases have sometimes been seen in your office, or on the covers of your books, you are especially interested in and expert at portraiture. As your colleagues draw this brief portrait of you for the Yale faculty record, they want you to know how lucky they and Yale are to have been part of your remarkable life narrative and beneficiaries of your sharp and compassionate thought.