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Professional Bio

Dr. Debra Thompson is the Canada Research Chair in Racial Inequality in Democratic Societies at McGill University and a leading scholar of the comparative politics of race. Her teaching and research interests focus on the relationships among race, the state, and inequality in democratic societies. Dr. Thompson has taught at the University of Oregon, 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, arguing that states seek to make their populations racially 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 has received three major awards from the American Political Science Association: the Race and Ethnic Politics section best book award in race and comparative politics, the Seymour M. Lipset award for the best book in Canadian politics, and an honourable mention from the International Politics and History section.

Dr. Thompson’s work has appeared in journals such as the Canadian Journal of Political Science, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Social and Legal Studies, and the Cambridge Review of International Affairs. She is currently working on two book projects: the first explores the global appeal of the Black Lives Matter movement through the lens of American exceptionalism, while the second examines the puzzling persistence of racial inequality in Canada.

Areas of interest: 

Race and ethnic politics; Black politics; comparative race studies; diaspora and transnationalism; racial inequality; American/comparative political development.

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