Jeffrey Gardner

Throughout my upbringing in Portland, Oregon several family members, friends, and outstanding public school teachers challenged me to think critically about social, political, historical, and environmental problems. For example, along the trails of many hikes with my grandparents, who still live in the forested mountains of the Pacific Northwest, they showed me nature’s magnificence as well as the devastation that could be done by humans to such landscapes. During a middle school social studies project, my uncle helped me formulate critical questions about what it means to be a “nation” and how many indigenous nations in the US are not recognized by the government. My high school teachers used interactive activities to teach about gender inequality, social class, the politics of constructing historical narratives, and racial and ethnic stratification.

I chose to study sociology in college because it is a discipline that best echoed the critical questions and puzzles about social problems that I had learned about in my childhood and youth. A couple years later, one of my professors who was passionate about social theory encouraged me to not merely study some sociological ideas, but to actually become a sociologist. This motivated me to not only be the first in my family to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree but also to be the first in my family to attend graduate school and receive a PhD. The same social puzzles that led me to the discipline of sociology as a first-generation college student continue to drive my research and teaching interests.   

My research centers on understanding how indigenous nations who are divided by state borders seek collective rights that transcend those borders. Such indigenous peoples are actively confronting histories of dispossession and racism while seeking recognition as nations with ancestral territories that span state borders. I situate my research at the intersection of sociological work on race and ethnicity, social movements, and political sociology. I also thoroughly enjoy teaching and aim to foster an environment where students feel comfortable using existing research, their sociological imaginations, and several methodological approaches to think critically about relevant social problems.

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