Social scientists name three new honorary doctors

3 October 2013

The journalist Kjell Albin Abrahamsson and the two British professors Irini Moustaki and Sir Keith V. Thomas have been chosen to receive honorary doctorates from the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Kjell Albin Abrahamsson is a journalist and author and has been interested in Central and Eastern Europe throughout his career. He has reported on Swedish Radio for many years about the dramatic transformations that these parts of Europe have undergone before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Abrahamsson's analyses and reporting are characterized by curiosity, humour, insightfulness, and acuity. He has been the recipient of several awards, including the 2006 Jolo Prize. Throughout his many years as an author he has helped to enhance the knowledge of and interest in these countries in Sweden. With his unique powers of observation and effortlessness he brings to life politics, everyday life, historical events, and encounters with people.

Irini Moustaki is a professor of social statistics at the London School of Economics. Her research addresses so-called latent variables, that is, variables that people want to, but for some reason cannot, observe. A classic example is intelligence, but other kinds of characteristics and attitudes are regarded as latent variables. Moustaki also works to tie these variables to observable ones. She has also been interested in applications not only in educational science, psychology, and other social scientific subjects but also in medicine.

Keith Thomas occupies a very special position in the world of learning. Since 1955 he has worked at Oxford, but his body of research and his efforts on behalf of academic freedom have sparked curiosity and commitment far outside the borders of his own country and the boundaries of conventional scientific traditions. He made his name as a historian with the book Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971) – a study of how inherited notions could survive and be transformed into new ideology, in particular a Christian worldview. His other great work, Man and the Natural World (1983), depicts how people throughout the centuries immediately preceding the advent of the Modern Age changed their attitudes to animals, plants, and the environment. Thomas is also known as a highly gifted teacher and has never shied away from communicating with the general public. He has taken his role as a public intellectual very seriously and stood up for the independence of universities vis-à-vis the state, the market, and other external interest groups – a worthy advocate for the ideals of academic freedom.

The conferment ceremony will take place in January 2014.