Laura Pulido, a professor in two UO departments who has had a wide-ranging influence on campus and beyond, has been named a Collins Chair in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Collins gift specifies that the recipient of the endowed chair be an outstanding scholar in the humanities disciplines or one who studies “aspects of the social sciences that employ historical or philosophical approaches.”
Pulido holds a joint appointment in the Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies, where she has also served as department head, and the Department of Geography. Her research focuses on how working-class people of color struggle for their rights within the confines of what she calls “racial capitalism,” the idea that racism is an endemic aspect of capitalist economies.
More recently, her work has shifted to structures of domination, especially white supremacy and nationalism and how they shape the U.S., including its historical geography.
“Dr. Pulido has a truly outstanding record of scholarly achievements, with an international profile,” said Bruce Blonigen, Tykeson Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who cited Pulido’s 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship, 2018 Harold Rose Anti-Racism Award from the Association of American Geographers, and 2018 Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography by the Association of American Geographers as recent examples of her scholarly achievements and recognition.
Pulido’s arrival on the UO campus was heralded by colleagues across campus. Alec Murphy, professor of geography and Rippey Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences, noted that “Laura’s arrival was widely viewed as a coup for UO's geography department because of her visibility as a disciplinary citizen and the far-reaching impact of her scholarly work on the geographic roots and implications of racial inequality.”
David Vázquez, department head for English and a specialist in Latinx literature, also was enthusiastic about Pulido’s contributions.
“She is one of the leading figures in both the study of race and social movements and in the field of environmental justice studies,” he said. “As one of the top researchers in the world on environmental justice, she further consolidates UO’s reputation as the premier university in the U.S. for environmental studies.”
Pulido has spent much of her career studying how activists create meaningful social and environmental change. She said her interest in political activism began when, as a child, she first learned about Harriett Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
“My inability to understand her courage and actions led me to study how people become activists, their visions for changing the world, how they create change and the obstacles they encounter,” she said. “The fact that the first person I ever admired was a black woman is also meaningful. Although my work is anchored by the study of ethnic Mexicans, I knew that I could never draw too tight a boundary around them. Consequently, I have written a good deal about comparative and relational ethnic studies.”
Pulido said she was delighted to be the recipient of a Collins Chair.
“The University of Oregon attracted me because it was an excellent fit intellectually, but I have found it to also be a very welcoming place.” She said. “As a faculty member of indigenous, race, and ethnic studies, I am especially pleased to be recognized in this way because far too often people do not think ethnic studies is a serious field of scholarship.”
Pulido joins David Li, Collins Professor of the Humanities, who has held the Collins Chair in English since 1999.
—By Lisa Raleigh, College of Arts and Sciences