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

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

Karen V. Hansen researches the intersections of kinship, community, and inequalities. Using an historical ethnographic approach, she investigates the collision of two processes in U.S. history—migration and dispossession. In “The Entanglements of Migration” she explores how state policies of settler colonialism shaped on-the-ground racial entanglements in the early twentieth century. She returns to Brandeis after being the Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Her exploration of the nexus of gender, class, and racial-ethnic inequality also takes her to a more contemporary case of entanglements—an integrated, working-class high school in California. In the 1960s and 1970s, politics, immigration, and economic development sparked conflict between Mexican-American and African American students. Faculty and student leaders acted to reduce racial tensions and establish a campus culture of interracial communication and constructive engagement. This project analyzes the mix of resources, vision, commitment, and creativity that led to this turn around.

Professor Hansen has most recently published Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930, which has been awarded the 2016 Gita Chaudhuri Book Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians, and co-edited At the Heart of Work and Family: Engaging the Ideas of Arlie Hochschild. Her research has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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

“Immigrants as Settler Colonists: Boundary Work between Dakota Indians and White Immigrant Settlers” (and Ken Chih-Yan Sun and Debra Osnowitz), Ethnic and Racial Studies (2016) DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2016.1213403

“Landowning, Dispossession, and the Significance of Land among Dakota and Scandinavian Women at Spirit Lake, 1900-29,” (with Grey Osterud) Gender & History 26:1 (2014): 105-127.

“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.