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

Research areas: 
Canadian Politics

Dr. Debra Thompson is a leading scholar of the comparative politics of race and a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Her research, teaching, and public scholarship seek to analyze the complex historic and contemporary relationships among race, the state, and inequality in Canada and other democratic societies. Dr. Thompson’s multiple award-winning first 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. Her best-selling second book, The Long Road Home: On Blackness and Belonging (Scribner Canada, 2022) is equal parts a personal meditation, penetrating analysis, and pointed social critique of the dynamics of race and belonging over time and across the Canadian-U.S. border. The Long Road Home was one of Indigo’s top 100 books, CBC’s best non-fiction of 2022, the Hill Times top 100 books of 2022, the winner of the Canadian Political Science Association’s Donald Smiley Prize for the best book on Canadian politics and government and a finalist for the prestigious Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Dr. Thompson is a frequent commentator in print media, radio, podcasts, and television, appeared in the 2022 documentary Black Ice, and in collaboration with the Institute for Research on Public Policy, produces and hosts the In/Equality, a special series of the Policy Options podcast on the many facets of inequality in Canadian society. She is currently working on several projects that extract and examine the mechanics of systemic racism in Canada.

Areas of interest: 

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

Selected publications: 


2022. The Long Road Home: On Blackness and Belonging. Scribner Canada.

  • Finalist, Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction
  • Donald Smiley Prize for best book in Canadian politics, Canadian Political Science Association
  • Indigo’s Top 100 books of 2022
  • CBC’s Best Non-Fiction of 2022
  • The Hill Times Top 100 Books of 2022

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)

2022. “Introduction: Antiblackness – Dispatches from Black Political Thought,” South Atlantic Quarterly 121(3). [with Barnor Hesse]

2021. “The Puzzling Persistence of Racial Inequality in Canada.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 54(4): 870-891. [with Keith Banting]

2020. “Race, the Canadian Census, and Interactive Political Development.” Studies in American Political Development 34(1): 44-70.

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)

2023. “Black Lives Matter, Social Justice, and the Limits of Multiculturalism.” In Assessing Multiculturalism in Global Comparative Perspective: A New Politics of Diversity for the 21st Century? eds. Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Alain-G. Gagnon, and Arjun Tremblay. Routledge.

2022. “Race, the University, and Social Transformation.” In The Construction of Canadian Identity from Abroad, eds. Christopher Kirkey and Richard Nimijean. Palgrave Macmillan. 89-106.

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.

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.

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

2021. “When the World Stopped.” Frankfurt 20 on 2020: 10 Canadian and 10 German Authors on a Year Like No Other. Simon & Schuster.

2021. “Foreword to ‘Difficult Women, Bad Feminists and Unruly Bodies’ by Roxane Gay,” in With the World to Choose From: Celebrating Seven Decades of the Beatty Lecture. Montreal: McGill University.

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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