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Debra Thompson

Debra Thompson profile picture
  • Affiliation: faculty
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Phone: 541-346-4487
  • Office: 923 PLC
  • Office Hours: In-person office hours are currently suspended. Please contact via email for information on a virtual option.
  • Interests: Race and ethnic politics; Black politics; comparative race studies; diaspora and transnationalism; racial inequality; American political development.
  • Curriculum Vitae


Dr. Debra Thompson is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon, specializing in race and ethnic politics. A political scientist with strong interdisciplinary orientations, Thompson’s teaching and research interests focus on the relationships among race, the state, and public policy in comparative context. Before coming to the University of Oregon, Dr. Thompson taught at Northwestern University and Ohio University, and held a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship with the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University in 2010-2011.

Dr. Thompson’s book, The Schematic State: Race, Transnationalism, and the Politics of the Census (Cambridge University Press, 2016) is a study of the political development of racial classifications on the national censuses of the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. The book maps the changing nature of the census from an instrument historically used to manage and control racialized populations to its contemporary purpose as an important source of statistical information, employed for egalitarian ends. Ultimately, this research exposes race-making as a process marred by contradiction and demonstrates that the primary goal of the schematic state is to make the population legible, turning the fluid and politically contested substance of race into stable, identifiable categories to be used as the basis of law and policy. The Schematic State received the Race and Ethnic Politics Section of the American Political Science Association’s best book award in race and comparative politics and an honorable mention from the American Political Science Association’s International Politics and History Section. 

Dr. Thompson is currently working on two additional book projects. The first explores the Black Lives Matter movement through the lens of American exceptionalism. The book analyzes the global appeal of Black Lives Matter, including how the current framing of police brutality as exclusively American obscures the transnational dynamics of racial domination and anti-racist activism, as well as the ways that the structure of political institutions can facilitate and intensify the institutional racism of the criminal justice system. The second project, co-authored with Keith Banting of Queen’s University, explores the puzzling persistence of racial inequality in Canada, which continues despite a social safety net and model of diversity governance that many assume is far more robust, redistributive, and egalitarian than those that exist in the United States. 

Recent Publications:


2016. Debra Thompson. The Schematic State: Race, Transnationalism and the Politics of the Census. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  • Best Book in Race and Comparative Politics, Race and Ethnic Politics Section, American Political Science Association, 2017.
  • Honorable Mention, International Politics and History Section, American Political Science Association, 2017. 

2015. Peter Russell, François Rocher, Debra Thompson and Amanda Bittner (eds). Essential Readings in Canadian Government and Politics, 2nd edition. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications.


2017. “An Exoneration of Black Rage.” South Atlantic Quarterly, Special Issue: After Ferguson, After Baltimore: The Challenge of Black Death and Black Life for Black Political Thought 116(3): 457-481.

2016. “The Puzzling Persistence of Racial Inequality in Canada.” In The Double Bind: The Politics of Racial and Class Inequalities in the Americas, eds. Juliet Hooker and Alvin B. Tillery. Report of the APSA Presidential Task Force on Racial Inequalities in the Americas. APSA: Washington D.C. 101-122. [with Keith Banting]

2015. “What Lies Beneath: Equality and the Making of Racial Classifications,” Social Philosophy and Policy, Special Issue: Equality and Public Policy 31(2): 114-136.

2013. “Through, Against, and Beyond the Racial State: The Transnational Stratum of Race,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Special Issue: Contesting the Global Colour Line: Race, Space, and Imperial Hierarchies, 26(1): 133-151.

2012. “Making (Mixed-)Race: Census Politics and the Emergence of Multiracial Multiculturalism in the United States, Great Britain and Canada.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, Special Issue: Accounting for Racial and Ethnic Diversity 35(8): 1409-1426.

2011. “A Focusing Tragedy: Public Policy and the Establishment of Afrocentric Education in Toronto.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 44(4): 807-828 [with Jennifer Wallner].

2010. “The Politics of the Census: Lessons from Abroad.” Canadian Public Policy 36(3): 377-382.

2009. “Racial Ideas and Gendered Intimacies: the Regulation of Interracial Relationships in North America.” Social and Legal Studies 18(3): 353-371.

2008. “Is Race Political?” Canadian Journal of Political Science 41(3): 525-547.

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