Home / About / People / Faculty / Olivia Nicol



Research Interests:
Social Sciences
Discipline: Sociology
Pillar / Cluster: Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences


I joined the SUTD faculty as assistant professor in sociology in September 2016.

My work explores the problem of responsibility assignment in long and complex causal chains. I investigate political conflicts emerging in the aftermath of major economic disasters.  In complex and collective failures, responsibility becomes diluted in an entanglement of actors, actions and mechanisms. A given actor’s responsibility cannot be easily disentangled from that of other actors. This type of situation is socially explosive, and paves the way for an intense blame game.

Currently I am working on a book project, called The Blame Game, which focuses on attribution of responsibility for the recent financial crisis in the United States (2007 – 2010). I am not interested in knowing who was responsible, but how responsibility for the crisis was constructed through a blame game. I examine media excerpts drawn from three main newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today) to analyze the games of accusations and counter-accusations for the crisis. Through these accusation dynamics, the boundaries between acceptable and deviant economic practices are drawn. Overall, my work participates in the renewed interest in the interplay between morals and markets in economic sociology.

I did my undergraduate studies in France, both at HEC and at Sciences-po. After a short-time working as a business consultant, I moved to the United States for my graduate studies. I received a PhD in sociology from Columbia University in 2016. I also completed a post-doctoral training at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, where I was a Max Weber fellow. I am now eager to discover Singapore and Asia more generally.



  • Nicol, Olivia. 2016. No Body to Kick, No Soul to Damn: Responsibility and Accountability for the Financial Crisis (2007-2010). Journal of Business Ethics. (Online first).

Non-Academic publications

  • Sassen, Saskia with Olivia Nicol and Marta Walinska. 2010. The Global Labour Market at a Tipping Point. The Economist Intelligence Unit, April 2010


  • PhD, Columbia University, 2016
  • MA, HEC Paris and IAE-La Sorbonne, 2005
  • MA, ScienCes-po Paris, 2004


  • Max Weber post-doctoral fellowship, European University Institute (EUI). 2015-2016.
  • Axa Research Foundation. Dissertation Fellowship (120,000 euros). 2010-2015.
  • Mellon Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow, Columbia University. 2012-2014.
  • Charles Tilly Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching, Department of Sociology, Columbia University. 2011.
  • Nominee, Presidential Teaching Award, Columbia University. 2010.


  • Economic and organizational sociology.
  • Business ethics.
  • Attribution of responsibility.