Dennis Galvan
University of Oregon

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


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Selected Projects

Everyday Nation Building: Creativity, Culture and Political Community in Senegal and Indonesia -- Book manuscript based on over ten years' field research in Senegal and Yogyakarta (Central Java), Indonesia, which presents bases for ethnic cooperation and religious tolerance in these two very different societies. Draws on John Dewey and Michel de Certeau to develop a theory of creative action and cultural/institutional change that draws attention in both cases to similar ordinary life experiences that blur the boundaries of identity and foster, new inclusive practices and narratives of nation.

Politics of Cultural Cooperation in West Africa: A Collaborative Research Network -- Building a network of scholars and practitioners concerned with ethnic relations, religious cooperation, and the formation of tolerant, inclusive political communities in West Africa. Collaborators in this network reject both atavistic propositions about inherent “tribal,” religious, or cultural conflict, as well as equally romantic claims that “tradition” is necessarily a reliable cure for today’s troubles. We instead: consider cultures in plural, dynamic terms as fungible resources; ask who gets to define tradition, and who resists such accounts; explore the politics by which culture and heritage become resources for cooperation or instruments of hate. We insist that identities, enmities and commonalities are produced, not bequeathed. Intervention in the name of peace and cooperation depends first on understanding the ongoing, creative flow of contestation over the nature and content of tradition. Linked to Peace and Migration component of Global Oregon Initiative, described below.

Institutional Syncretism in Comparative Perspective -- Two-part research agenda that extends work begun in The State Must Be Our Master of Fire by: 1) establishing an alternative to historical and rational-choice institutionalism which emphasizes the decomposability of structures and the creativity of action, drawing especially on pragmatist social theory and constructivist understandings of culture, and 2) undertaking a cross-national exploration of illustrative cases of institutional syncretism and the circumstances under which such syncretic alternatives become promulgated and sustained as new institutional orders.

Global Oregon Initiative: Internationalization on a Human Scale -- Co-directing a new campus-wide initiative selected in Spring 2009 as one of the five "big ideas" that will define the University of Oregon. The Global Oregon Initiative draws together research and teaching on major world regions, across many disciplines, focusing on three themes of global significance: 1) Translation -- how ideas, meanings and culture are rearranged as literature, film, art and experience flow across boundaries and borders; 2) Sustainable Livelihoods -- how societies balance economic growth and environmental conservation in light of borderless global climate change; 3) Peace and Migration -- how to foster inclusive, cooperative communities as migration and globalization blur boundaries, borders and identities. Global Oregon puts international engagement, multilingualism and cross-cultural expertise at the heart of a University of Oregon education, making Oregon known not just for salmon, track, and natural wonders, but for a new, pragmatic internationalism.

Sustainability Livelihoods, Social Capital and the Politics of Local Development  -- Collaborative project drawing on empirical cases in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, to explore three interlinked lines of inquiry: 1) which types of local-scale political institutions, both historically-rooted and progressive-new forms of leadership, can most effectively balance investments in physical capital against the maintenance of environmental capital; 2) can social capital offsets deficits in financial, physical and environmental capital; 3) to what extent is neo-traditionalism useful in the mobilization of social capital for development?  Linked to the Sustainable Livelihoods component of Global Oregon Initiative, described above.