More About Dr. Hansen

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Karen V Hansen's Speech on Women's Studies Research Center's Welcoming Day, September 11, 2017:

"Big Picture Questions Need to Drive our Collective inquiry"

Meet the Director

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Karen V. Hansen, Ph.D.

Karen V. Hansen, Ph.D.

Karen V. Hansen joins the WSRC as the new Director and continues to serve as Professor of Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. She is delighted to lead an institution that supports research on women and gender issues and eagerly anticipates collaborating with scholars and artists across fields to grapple with these pressing and important challenges.

Professor Hansen brings a sustained commitment to interdisciplinary feminist scholarship, which began as a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley. Beginning with her dissertation, she has combined the insights of sociological theory with an understanding of historical processes. Her abiding interest in research at the intersections of kinship, community, and inequalities has taken her back into the nineteenth century and across the continent.

Most recently Professor Hansen has ventured to the early twentieth century Great Plains to study the curious coexistence of immigrants and Native Americans on Indian reservations. Her book, Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930, which analyzes land records, federal archives, photographs, and oral histories, has been awarded the 2016 Gita Chaudhuri Book Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians. Her work has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Swedish Fulbright Commission.

Her current research extends her historical ethnographic approach, enlivened by oral history and grounded in analysis of landownership, to explore more deeply the collision of two processes in U.S. history—immigration and dispossession. In her ongoing project, “The Entanglements of Migration,” she investigates how state policies facilitated homesteading and land purchase by white settlers on Indian reservations across the Northern Great Plains. 

Her fascination with the nexus of gender, class, and racial-ethnic inequality has drawn her into the lives of working men and women in New England—resulting in A Very Social Time: Crafting Community in Antebellum New England. And it has prompted her to cast her sociological eye upon contemporary family arrangements in the San Francisco Bay Area in her investigation of childcare for working families: Not-So-Nuclear Families: Class, Gender, and Networks of Care.

In a new project, Professor Hansen has begun to explore a more contemporary case of entanglements—an integrated high school in the heart of Silicon Valley in California. The working-class campus grappled with racial tensions in the late 1960s and early 1970s, particularly between Mexican-American and African-American students. After strident confrontations, the school acted to deepen interracial understanding and promote respectful dialogue. Educators and students established a campus culture with a more inclusive curriculum that facilitated communication and constructive engagement. This project analyzes the mix of resources, vision, commitment, and creativity that transformed relationships at the school.

In addition to her monographs, Hansen has co-edited several anthologies. With Anita Ilta Garey, she edited At the Heart of Work and Family: Engaging the Ideas of Arlie Hochschild and Families in the U.S.: Kinship and Domestic Politics. With Ilene Philipson, she published Women, Class, and the Feminist Imagination. Her numerous articles have been published in journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies and Gender & History, and in anthologies—most recently Concurrent Imaginaries, Postcolonial Worlds: Toward Revised Histories and Open to Disruption: Time and Craft in the Practice of Slow Sociology.