Dennis C. Galvan is Vice Provost for International Affairs and Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Oregon. He serves as Executive Director of the UO’s Global Studies Institute (GSI) within the Office of International Affairs.
Galvan received his Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley in 1996 and his B.A. From Stanford in 1987. He has conducted field research since 1988 in a cluster of thirty villages in rural Senegal, and has conducted comparative field research in Central Java, Indonesia, since 1999. His published work examines everyday institutional change, peasant adaptation of property regimes, social capital and democratization, sustainable development, ethnic relations, and grass-roots patterns of nation-building. His current book project, Everyday Nation Building, examines ethnic and religious cooperation in Senegal and Indonesia.
Galvan’s research explores competing models of development and multiple modernities; ethnic cooperation and nation building; political legitimation and governance; and the search for locally meaningful and sustainable models of social change in the global south. In Senegal, his fieldwork has been focused in a cluster of thirty villages in the Sine (Fatick) region, centered on the large community of Toucar (Tukar), where he has lived and worked since the late 1980s. More recent projects have involved interviews, surveys, and participant observation in Dakar, especially in neighborhoods with high concentrations of migrants from the Serer-Sine ethnic group. Since the late 1990s, he has been working in the city-state of Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia, which exhibits everyday institutional change similar to Senegal, especially with regard to patterns of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations, the evolution of political community, representation and citizenship. Across all these projects, Galvan’s central concern is how ordinary people adaptively transform the nation-state, markets, law, local government, and natural resource management systems to suit their changing and mutable notions of public morality, community heritage, identity, and a desirable, shared future.
His recent co-edited volume, Political Creativity: Reconfiguring Institutional Order and Change (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013, co-edited with Gerald Berk and Victoria Hattam) redefines orderly political structures as assemblages, political agency as creative tinkering, and time as a fluid resource, thus opening new terrain and techniques for tracing numerous, otherwise unseen, creative projects within political life.
Galvan’s first book, on institutional syncretism, land tenure, and local governance in rural Senegal, The State Must Be Our Master of Fire: How Peasants Craft Culturally Sustainable Development in Senegal (University of California Press, 2004), won the 2005 Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association African Politics Conference Group. His 2007 co-edited volume, Reconfiguring Institutions Across Time and Space: Syncretic Responses to Challenges of Political and Economic Transformation (Palgrave Macmillan, co-edited with Rudra Sil), tracks similar grass-roots adaptations of state and economy across the developing world.
Everyday Nation Building, his current book project, explores how ordinary people in Senegal and Indonesia creatively rework traditions of kinship and structures of kingship, blurring the boundaries of ethnicity and religion, establishing informal, experiential bases for cooperation, tolerance, and national belonging. His articles on related themes have appeared in journals such as the Theory and Society, Journal of Democracy, Journal of Modern African Studies, Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines, Electoral Studies, and African Economic History.
Galvan was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal in 2009-10, and has received fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council and the US Department of Education. He serves on the International Policy Advisory Council of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, which he co-chaired from 2014-16.
In 2008, Galvan received the Thomas F. Herman Faculty Award for Distinguished Teaching, the University of Oregon’s highest honor for teaching among tenured faculty, awarded to one or two individuals per year. He was also named University of Oregon Mortar Board Professor of the Term in Fall 2007 and received the University of Florida Honors Program Professor of the Year Award, 2000-01, and the University of Florida College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award in 2000.
Dennis Galvan joined the University of Oregon International Studies and Political Science Departments in July 2001. In the first four years of his career he benefited enormously from the camaraderie and mentorship of the University of Florida Political Science Department and African Studies Center, but the call to return home to the West Coast proved too strong to resist.