Grad Students

Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer

Contact Information

Office  Haines 264

Comparing France and the United States, my research examines the way cultural and legal contexts influence how individuals, organizations, and institutions deal with sexuality and family. My current book project, based on my dissertation, analyzes the role of "experts" and "expertise" in legal and political debates on marriage and parenting for same-sex couples. I am currently a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Dickinson College. 

-Dissertation: The Culture of Knowledge: Constructing “Expertise” in Legal Debates on Marriage and Kinship for Same-Sex Couples in France and the United States. 

Chair: Abigail Saguy. Committee: Hannah Landeker, Edward Walker, Juliet Williams (Women's Studies), Eric Fassin (Université Paris 8) 

Abstract: Just like the culturally and historically specific framing of a political debate, the kinds of knowledge used by political actors as “expertise” varies cross-nationally. Who are the “experts” that participate in legislative and judicial debates on marriage and kinship for same-sex couples in France and the United States and what do they say? What explains national differences? To answer these questions, I analyze the debates on such laws and legal cases in both countries since 1990 in: 1) transcriptions of debates in the legislature, 2) opinions of judges and arguments of lawyers; and 3) media coverage in the Le Monde and the New York Times, 4) interviews with lawmakers and "experts." I identify the people who participate as “experts” in the debates, trace their institutional and activist origins, and examine their statements. While in the United States biologists, economists, and psychologists take part in the debate, in France psychoanalysts and philosophers dominate. Religious representatives are important in both cases but legitimated differently. These national specificities can be explained by legal opportunity structures that centralize the question of kinship in France and discrimination in the United States and by more extensive institutionalization and professionalization of knowledge production in the United States within think tanks tied to social movements.

Fields of Study

Cultural Sociology, Sociology of Knowledge, Political Sociology, Sociology of Gender and Sexuality


Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, Michael and Abigail Saguy. (Forthcoming). How to Describe it? Why the Term "Coming Out" Means Differnt Things in France and the U.S. Sociological Forum.

Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, Michael. 2013. Labels of Love: How Migrants Negotiate (or Not) the Culture of Sexual IdentityAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology 1(3): 321-345. 

Moore, Mignon and Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2013. LGBT Sexuality and Families at the Start of the Twenty-FIrst CenturyAnnual Review of Sociology 39: 491-507.

Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, Michael. 2005. Epidemic and Identity: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of AIDS Prevention Approaches in France and the United States. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 12: 191-203.

Grants and Awards

-2012 National Science Foundation, Law and Social Sciences Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant 

- 2012 Chateaubriand Fellowship, Fulbright Commission and French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for year-long dissertation research in France

- 2012 Center for European and Eurasian Studies Pre-Dissertation Fellowship, UCLA

- 2012 European Studies Fellowship, College of Letters and Sciences, UCLA

- 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award, UCLA department of Sociology

- 2009 Teaching Fellow Mini-Grant, UCLA Office of Instructional Development

- 2009 Chancellor’s Prize, UCLA

- 2008-2013 Sociology Department Graduate Fellowship, UCLA

- 2005-2007 University of Toulouse Graduate Teaching Fellowship

- 2004 Phi Beta Kappa

- 2004 French Departmental Honors, Dickinson College

- 2004 North East Conference of Teachers of Foreign Languages Award

Conference Presentations

Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2013. “The Culture of Knowledge: ‘Expertise’ and Gay Marriage Debates in France and the United States.” June 17. Colloque comparaison franco-américaine. Paris. *Paper accepted.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2013. “Des mouvements en changement: autonomisation, institutionnalisation, professionalisation et transnationalisation des associations LGBT.” July 9. Panelist, French Political Science Association Annual Meeting. Paris. *Paper accepted.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2013. “Sexual and National Belonging in Europe and the U.S.” June 26. Panelist, Council For European Studies Annual Meeting. Amsterdam. *Paper accepted.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer and Abigail Saguy. 2013. “Telling your Homosexuality: France and the Cultural Limits of ‘Coming Out.’” March 23. Eastern Sociological Association Mini-Conference on Comparative Cultural Sociology, Boston, MA. *Paper accepted.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2012. “Table ronde: L’homosexualité vue par les sciences sociales.” December 13. Invited panelist, Pre-Conference Panel Colloque Femmes, féminismes, recherches: 30 ans après. Toulouse, France.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer and Abigail Saguy. 2012. “Telling your Homosexuality: France and the Cultural Limits of ‘Coming Out.’” March 23. Council For European Studies Annual Conference. Boston, MA.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2011. “Learning to be Homosexual, not Gay: LGB Migrants as ‘Outsiders Within’ in France and the United States.” July 4. LGBT/Queer Studies: Toward Trans/national Scholarly and Activist Kinships Conference. Madrid, Spain.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2011. “Homosexuel(le)’ ou  gay? L'identité sexuelle en France et aux États-Unis.” July 6. French Sociology Association Annual Meeting. Grenoble, France.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2010. “Same Sex Different Nation: French and American Expatriate Frames on Sexual Identity.” August 14. American Sociological Associate Annual Meeting. Atlanta, GA.


Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer. 2009. “They Pledge Allegiance to the Fag: 'America' in French Discourse on the Gay Community.” August 8. American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. San Francisco, CA.


Abigail C. Saguy 


M.A. (Sociology), UCLA 2010 // M.A. (American Studies), Université de Toulouse 2008 // Certificate of Political Studies, Sciences Po Toulouse 2005 // B.A. (French), Dickinson College 2004, Summa Cum Laude, Departmental Honors, Phi Beta Kappa