Debra Thompson

Academic title(s): 

Associate Professor 

Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Racial Inequality in Democratic Societies

Debra Thompson
Contact Information

855 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 2T7


Email address: 
debra.thompson [at]
Leacock 540

PhD, University of Toronto

Curriculum vitae: 
Research areas: 
Canadian Politics

Professor Debra Thompson is 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. She 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.

Professor 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 honorable mention from the International Politics and History section.

Professor 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.

Selected publications: 


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

  • 2018 Seymour Martin Lipset Best Book Award, Canadian Politics Section, American Political Science Association (APSA)
  • 2017 Best Book Award in Race and Comparative Politics, Race and Ethnic Politics Section, APSA
  • 2017 Robert L. Jervis and Paul W. Schroeder Best Book Award Honorable Mention, International Politics and History Section, APSA
  • 2018 Canadian Political Science Association Book Prize in Comparative Politics, short-list

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

2009. Peter Russell, François Roçher, Debra Thompson and Linda White (eds). Essential Readings in Canadian Government and Politics. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications.

Articles (Peer-Reviewed)

2020. “Race, the Canadian Census, and Interactive Political Development.” Studies in American Political Development 34(1).

2019. “Democratic Hauntings: Michael Hanchard’s The Spectre of Race and the challenge of comparison.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 42(8): 1313-20.

2018. “American Political Development in the Era of Black Lives Matter.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 6(1): 116-119 [with Chloe Thurston].

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.

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 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 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.

  • Winner of the John McMenemy Prize (2008) for the best article published in the CJPS.

Book Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)

2020. “The Intersectional Politics of Black Lives Matter,” in Turbulent Times, Transformational Possibilities? Gender Politics Today and Tomorrow, eds Alexandra Dobrowolsky and Fiona MacDonald. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Forthcoming, 2020. “Wakanda Forever: Black Panther in Black Political Thought,” in The Future is Unwritten: Representations of Political Resistance and Emancipation in Science Fiction (eds. Judith Grant and Sean Parson). Lexington Press.

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. “The Ethnic Question: Census Politics in Great Britain.” In Social Statistics and Ethnic Diversity: Cross-National Perspectives in Classifications and Identity Politics, eds. Patrick Simon, Victor Piché and Amélie A. Gagnon. IMISCOE Research Series, Springer. 111-139.

2015. “Through, Against, and Beyond the Racial State: The Transnational Stratum of Race.” In Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line, eds. Alex Anievas, Nivi Manchanda, and Robbie Shilliam. New York: Routledge Press.

2014. “The Comparative Study of Race: Census Politics in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain.” In Comparing Canada: Methods and Perspectives on Canadian Politics, eds. M. Papillion, L. Turgeon, J. Wallner and S. White. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. 73-94.

2013. “Making (Mixed-)Race: Census Politics and the Emergence of Multiracial Multiculturalism in the United States, Great Britain and Canada.” In Accounting for Racial and Ethnic Diversity, eds. Patrick Simon and Victor Piché. New York: Routledge Press. 53-72.

Reviews/Non-Refereed Publications

2018. Controversies in the Making: Trump, Race, and Time. The John Meisel Lecture Series in Contemporary Political Controversies, no. 1. Kingston: Queen’s University.

Associate Professor
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