Peer-reviewed articles

Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, Michael. Forthcoming. Producing Expert Capital: How Opposing Same- Sex Marriage Experts Dominate Fields in the United States and France. Social Movement Studies. 

Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, Michael and Abigail Saguy. 2014. How to Describe it? Why the Term "Coming Out" Means Different Things in France and the U.S. Sociological Forum29 (4): 808-829.


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

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. [Download]

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


Research & Teaching Interests 

Culture, Knowledge, Law & Society,

Politics, Sexualities, Gender,

Family, Social Movements,

Comparative and Historical Sociology, Qualitative Methods


"The Culture of Knowledge: Constructing 'Expertise' in Legal Debates on Marriage and Kinship for Same-Sex Couples in France and the United States

This dissertation asks how and why American and French decision-makers—and those striving to persuade them—use specific kinds of “experts” and “expertise” when debating if same-sex couples should have the right (or not) to marry and found families. To answer these questions, I analyze archival, interview, and ethnographic 

data to study “expertise”—conceived broadly—in media, legislative, and judicial debates on the U.S. state, U.S. federal, French, and European levels from 1990 to 2013. I find that, despite addressing the same issues, decision-makers draw on divergent categories of “experts” mobilizing types of knowledge that follow systematic cross-national patterns. For instance, French institutions hear professors and intellectuals who discuss gay family rights in the abstract while U.S. institutions hear ordinary citizens whose lived experiences

ground academic testimony. Furthermore, some

“expertise,” such as economics in the U.S. or

psychoanalysis in France, is pervasive in one context

but absent in the other. I argue that nationally

specific patterns in “expertise” are due to

embedded institutional logics, legal structures,

and knowledge production fields that impact

how information is produced, made available, and

rendered legitimate nationally and historically. 

Chapter 1 identifies the people U.S. and French newspapers

cite and what they say. U.S. reporting prioritizes ordinary citizens and advocacy organizations using personal experience and legal expertise. In contrast, French reporting prioritizes intellectuals and professionals using psychoanalytic and anthropological concepts. Chapter 2 finds national differences in people testifying before legal and political institutions. In contrast to French legislatures, which draw on famous intellectuals, state agencies, and other elite actors, U.S. legislatures hear more ordinary citizens and activists. Courts, which are central to advancing gay rights in the U.S. but not France, combine personal testimony with empirical science from “expert witnesses.” Chapter 3 describes how these patterns are partly the result of the way lawyers and legislators navigate cultural and institutional constraints as they organize testimony. Chapter 4 explains how knowledge availability also depends on power and resource distribution in fields where academics and professionals work. Finally, Chapter 5 describes how experts’ access to decision-making institutions depends on the relationships they forge with organizations and lawmakers. 

​​Comparing France and the United States, Stambolis's research broadly examines the way cultural and legal contexts influence how individuals, organizations, and institutions deal with sexuality and family. His dissertation, focusing primarily on the institutional level, analyzes national differences in the "expertise" political stakeholders use to justify their stances for or against marriage and parenting for same-sex couples. On the individual level, he has published articles examining how historical legacies, political ideology, and social movement strategies shape how LGBT people in France and the United States frame their sexual identity. He has also published about the ways organizations carry out HIV prevention strategies targeting men who have sex with men in these divergent national contexts.

​Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer
Ph.D. / Sociology / UCLA and L'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales

​​​​Michael's research has been funded by

The National Science Foundation, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Fulbright Commission, and the UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies

Assistant Professor (Maître de conférences) 

American and Gender Studies 

Université Bordeaux Montaigne