Dennis Galvan
University of Oregon

Vice Provost for International Affairs
Professor, International Studies & Political Science
Co-Director, Global Oregon Initiative


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Background & Interests
Dennis C. Galvan is Vice Provost for International Affairs and Professor in the Political Science and International Studies Departments at the University of Oregon. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley in 1996, and his B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University in 1987.

Galvan researches institutional adaptation, nation building, political culture, and the creation of locally meaningful, sustainable models of development in the global south. He has conducted field research in West Africa since 1986, primarily in a cluster of thirty villages in Senegal's Sine region, and in Central Java, Indonesia since 1999. Central to all his work is a concern for 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 political morality, heritage, and identity.

His most recent book, political creativity bookcoverPolitical 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: Hmaster of fire bookcoverow 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), tracks similar grass-roots adaptations of state and economy across the developing world.

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He is currently completing Everyday Nation Building, an exploration of 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 from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council and the US Department of Education. In 2008, Galvan received a Thomas F. Herman Faculty Award for Distinguished Teaching, the University of Oregon's highest honor for teaching among tenured faculty.

Galvan is also founder and acting Executive Director of the Global Studies Institute ( and the Co-Director of Global Oregon (, both vehicles to promote internationalization of research, teaching, and outreach at the University of Oregon. In these roles, he led the development of the recently announced Gabon-Oregon Transnational Research Center on Environment and Development (

Professor Galvan joined the University of Oregon International Studies and Political Science Departments in July 2001. In the first four years of his career he benefitted 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. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1996 and his B.A. from Stanford University in 1987.