Professor of Sociology & Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Core Graduate Faculty, American History

Series Editor, Families in Focus, Rutgers University Press

Past Chair, Families Section, American Sociological Association


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1989

M.A., B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara

Focus of Research

Sociology of Families and Kinship, Historical Methods, Networks and Communities, Sociology of Gender, Class and Race.

Contact Information




Karen V. Hansen

Karen Hansen

Undergraduate Advising Head

Karen V. Hansen’s interest in the nexus of community and inequality was the starting point of her study of the Spirit Lake Dakota Indian Reservation in the early twentieth century. Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930 (Oxford University Press, 2013) probes the processes that led to Scandinavian homesteaders taking land on the reservation. They became both the neighbors of Dakota Sioux and usurpers of their land. Encounter chronicles the creation of ethnically mixed communities and interweaves the stories of Dakotas and immigrants—women and men, farmers, domestic servants, and day laborers. In the aftermath of war and conflict, they nonetheless shared struggles to maintain a language, practice a culture, and honor loyalties to more than one nation. The project has received fellowship support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Hansen is Visiting Scholar at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University.

Hansen's recent anthology, At the Heart of Work and Family: Engaging the Ideas of Arlie Hochschild, edited with Anita Ilta Garey, incorporates original research by leading scholars who appraise, revise, and extend the conceptual framework developed by innovative and influential sociologist Arlie Hochschild. Articles illustrate the power of linking economic structures to micro interactions for revealing the invisible emotional labor entangled in work–family dilemmas.

Hansen's study of contemporary working families, Not-So-Nuclear Families: Class, Gender, and Networks of Care, investigates the dynamic networks parents construct to help them care for their school-age children. A recipient of the William J. Goode Book Award, Honorable Mention from the American Sociological Association Family Section, the book vividly illustrates the conflicts, hardships and triumphs of four family networks that span the economic spectrum (working class, middle class, professional middle class, and upper class). It argues for the importance of studying families as fluid entities embedded in kinship and community, in order to fully understand how working parents manage the crisis of  care that is structurally produced and individually experienced. Research for this project was conducted while Hansen was an associate senior researcher at the Berkeley Center for Working Families at the University of California. An Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant generously supported her time at the center.

Recent Publications


Great Plains Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930. Oxford University Press, 2013.

At the Heart of Work and Family: Engaging the Ideas of Arlie Hochschild.   (edited with Anita Ilta Garey) Rutgers University Press, 2011.

Not-So-Nuclear Families book cover Not-So-Nuclear Families: Class, Gender, and Networks of Care. Rutgers University Press, 2005.
Families in the U.S.: Kinship and Domestic Politics book cover Families in the U.S.: Kinship and Domestic Politics (edited with Anita Ilta Garey). Temple University Press, 1998.
A Very Social Time: Crafting Community in Antebellum New England book cover A Very Social Time: Crafting Community in Antebellum New England. University of California Press, 1994.
Women, Class, and the Feminist Imagination book cover Women, Class, and the Feminist Imagination: A Socialist-Feminist Reader (edited with Ilene J. Philipson). Temple University Press, 1990.

Selected Articles

“Localizing Transnational Norwegians: Exploring Nationalism, Language, and Labor Markets in Early Twentieth-Century North Dakota,” (with Ken Chih-Yan Sun) Norwegian-American Essays, 2011, Oslo: Novus Forlag, (2011):73-107.

“Land Taking at Spirit Lake: The Competing and Converging Logics of Norwegian and Dakota Women, 1900-1930,” in Norwegian American Women: Migration, Communities, and Identities, edited by Betty Berglund and Lori Ann Lahlum. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2011, pp. 211-245.

"Mapping the Dispossession: Scandinavian Homesteading at Fort Totten, 1900-1930," (with Mignon Duffy), Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences 18 (Spring 2008): 67-80. (PDF)

"The Asking Rules of Reciprocity in Networks of Care for Children," Qualitative Sociology, 27:4 (Winter 2004): 419-435.

"Care and Kinship: An Introduction" (with Anita Garey, Rosanna Hertz, and Cameron Macdonald) Journal of Family Issues, 23:6 (September 2002): 703-715. As part of this project we solicited articles and edited two special issues of Journal of Family Issues on "Care and Kinship," 23:6 (September) and 23:7 (October).

"Historical Sociology and the Prism of Biography: Lillian Wineman and the Trade in Dakota Beadwork, 1893-1929," Qualitative Sociology 22:4 (Winter 1999): 353-368.

"Rediscovering the Social: Visiting Practices in Antebellum New England and the Limits of the Public/Private Dichotomy," in Public and Private in Thought and Practice: Perspectives on a Grand Dichotomy, edited by Krishan Kumar and Jeff Weintraub. University of Chicago Press, 1997, pp. 268-302.

"'No Kisses Is Like Youres': An Erotic Friendship between African-American Women During the Mid-Nineteenth Century," Gender and History 7:2 (August 1995): 153-182.