Meet the Director
Photo Credit: Sarah Putnam
Karen V. Hansen, PhD
As Director of WSRC and Professor of Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University, Karen V. Hansen brings a sustained commitment to interdisciplinary feminist scholarship. Dr. Hansen began as a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, and combines the insights of sociological theory with an understanding of historical processes that create inequality.
Since 2018, Dr. Hansen has led a multidisciplinary workshop, “Cascading: Gender, Race and Downward Mobilities.” The workshop brings together WSRC Scholars, faculty, graduate students, and administrators, from Brandeis and beyond, to explore the causes, consequences, and meanings of downward mobility in people’s lives. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Raikes Foundation have just awarded Dr. Hansen and Co-PI, Dr. Nazli Kibria of Boston University, a Grand Challenge Grant for “Cascading Lives: Stories of Loss, Resilience, and Resistence,” a project growing out of this workshop.
Hansen’s sustained investigation of communities at the crossroads of gender, class, and racial-ethnic inequality has brought her to an in-depth case study of a high school in California. “Coming of Age in Silicon Valley” centers on Sunnyvale High during a decade of heightened interracial tension. In the 1960s and 1970s, when schools across the country violently and vociferously resisted integration, SHS stands as a case of a working-class, multiracial campus that found a constructive path through conflict. By example and design, it attracted skilled educators and created a culture of involvement that facilitated dialogue across difference.
She has most recently published Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930, which 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. Her research has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Swedish Fulbright Commission.