Kai T. Erikson

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Kai T. Erikson
Kai Theodor Erikson

(1931-02-12) February 12, 1931 (age 88)
EducationThe Putney School
Alma mater

Kai Theodor Erikson (born February 12, 1931)[1] is an American sociologist, noted as an authority on the social consequences of catastrophic events.[2] He served as the 76th president of the American Sociological Association.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Erikson was born in Vienna, the son of Joan Erikson (née Serson), a Canadian-born artist, dancer, and writer, and Erik Erikson, a German-born famed psychologist and sociologist.[4] His maternal grandfather was an Episcopalian minister,[5] and Erikson was raised a Protestant.[6] Erikson graduated from The Putney School in Vermont, Reed College in Oregon and earned a PhD at the University of Chicago during which he joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh in 1959 where he held a joint appointment at the School of Medicine and in the Department of Sociology, where he meet his future wife Joanna Slivka, who became Joanna Erikson.[7] In 1963 he moved to Emory University, and followed that with a move to Yale University in 1966. He now holds the title of William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Sociology and American Studies.[2] He edited the Yale Review from 1979 to 1989.[2]

Erikson first attracted professional attention with his book, Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance, published in 1966 and based on his doctoral dissertation. An early attempt to understand the social framework of Puritan life that led to the Salem witch trials in the late 17th century, the book has been followed by a variety of related historical and sociological studies.

Erikson subsequently studied a number of disasters in the context of their sociological implications, including the nuclear fallout in the Marshall Islands in 1954; the Buffalo Creek flood in West Virginia in 1972 (resulting in the award-winning 1978 book Everything In Its Path); the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979; the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989; and the genocide in Yugoslavia of 1992 to 1995.[2]


  • Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance (1966)
  • Everything in Its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood (1978)
  • A New Species of Trouble: Explorations in Disaster, Trauma, and Community (1994)


  1. ^ Blumesberger, Susanne; Doppelhofer, Michael; Mauthe, Gabriele; Nationalbiblioth, (Wien) Österreichische (28 March 2018). "Handbuch österreichischer Autorinnen und Autoren jüdischer Herkunft 18. bis 20. Jahrhundert". Saur – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c d "Eminent sociologist Kai Erikson to speak". Kenyon College. 2005-01-31.
  3. ^ "Kai T. Erickson". American Sociological Association. 2006-06-13.
  4. ^ Cribbs, Bill. "Miscellaneous Barnstable County, MA Obituaries". www.genealogybuff.com.
  5. ^ "Joan Erikson Is Dead at 95; Shaped Thought on Life Cycles". The New York Times. 1997-08-08.
  6. ^ Friedman, Lawrence Jacob (28 March 2018). "Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik H. Erikson". Harvard University Press – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Friedman, Lawrence Jacob (2000). Identity's architect: a biography of Erik H. Erikson. Harvard University Press. pp. 256, 331–332. ISBN 978-0-674-00437-5. Retrieved April 28, 2014.