Karen V. Hansen

Karen Hansen

Director of Graduate Studies
Professor of Sociology & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Director, Women’s Studies Research Center
Core Graduate Faculty, American History
Series Editor, Families in Focus, Rutgers University Press
Past Chair, Families Section, American Sociological Association

Karen V. Hansen is an historical sociologist exploring the nexus of gender, class, and racial-ethnic inequality. Drawn to interdisciplinary ventures, she is currently leading a collaborative investigation involving social scientists, historians, and artists called Cascading and Resilience: Downward Mobility through the Prism of Intersectionality.  Defining cascading as the process of falling from a particular social location in ways that precipitate additional declines, the project asks: what are the social, structural, and familial conditions that accelerate or minimize this widespread and poorly understood phenomenon? How do kinship, social networks, race and gender, employment status, and access to public resources, for example, act as mediating forces in the onset, duration, or prevention of cascades? This project maps the networks and processes that can either turn a triggering event into a plunging spiral or activate a set of economic and social responses that foster resistance and resilience.

In Racial Learning and Teacher Leadership in a California High School, Professor Hansen studies the successful resurgence of a struggling, multiracial, working-class high school during a period of heightened interracial tensions. In the 1960s and early 1970s, as communities across the country violently and vociferously resisted school integration, the multiracial student body and racially diversifying staff of Sunnyvale High School reduced violence, nurtured student leaders, improved academics, and increased girls’ access to sports.  Professor Hansen asks how – well before Title IX and other policy interventions – adults and youth created a culture of involvement and mutual responsibility that forged lasting relationships between students and faculty across lines of race and ethnicity, long after the school itself closed.

Throughout her academic career, Karen V. Hansen has been fortunate to be supported by generous foundations, mentors, peers, and rising scholars whose work has inspired and challenged her. Her work has been funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Swedish Fulbright Commission.

Since 2017, Professor Hansen has served as the Director of the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center, a project that affords many people similar opportunities.  There, over 20 Brandeis faculty, forty affiliated independent scholars and artists, and numerous graduate and undergraduate students conduct independent research; make, perform, and exhibit original art; and work with regional, national, and international partners in research and practice. 

Professor Hansen’ most recent book, Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930, won the 2016 Gita Chaudhuri Book Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians. With Anita Ilta Garey, she co-edited At the Heart of Work and Family: Engaging the Ideas of Arlie Hochschild.


Selected Publications

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

Families in the U.S.: Kinship and Domestic Politics Book CoverFamilies in the U.S.: Kinship and Domestic Politics (edited with Anita Ilta Garey). Temple University Press, 1998.

Women, Class, and the Feminist Imagination: A Socialist-Feminist Reader Book CoverWomen, Class, and the Feminist Imagination: A Socialist-Feminist Reader (edited with Ilene J. Philipson). Temple University Press, 1990.


‘Land was One of the Greatest Gifts’: Women’s Landownership in Dakota, Scandinavian, and Black Communities” (and Grey Osterud and Valerie Grim), Great Plains Quarterly 38:3 (Summer 2018): 251-272.

Gendered Entanglements: Dakotas and Scandinavians at Spirit Lake, 1887-1930,” Special Forum on “Gender and Indigenous-Immigrant Encounters and Entanglements,” Women’s History Review (2017): 1-16.

Entangled Encounters and the Oral Archive: Notes from the Field,” in Concurrent Imaginaries, Postcolonial Worlds: Toward Revised Histories, edited by Diana Brydon, Peter Forsgen, and Gunlög Fur, pp. 183-202. Leaden, Netherlands: Brill Rodopi, 2017.

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.