Dr. Thomas W Pearson

Associate Professor
Social Sciences Department
College of Arts, Communications, Humanities and Social Sciences

Office: 441C Harvey Hall
Phone: 715-232-1515
Email: pearsont@uwstout.edu
Personal website: uwstout.academia.edu/ThomasPearson

Brief Biography

Thomas Pearson began teaching at UW-Stout in 2009. He is a cultural anthropologist and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork on environmental conflicts in both Central America and the United States. His research in Central America addressed environmental activism around genetically modified seeds and intellectual property rights issues during the ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. His research in the United States has focused on the social aspects of frac sand mining in western Wisconsin, particularly local activism, conflicts over community, place identity, and democracy, and impacts on quality of life. He is planning a future research project on the environmental justice implications of pipeline and energy infrastructure development, and a separate project on the experience of disability rights advocacy. He began serving as the assistant director of the Honors College in 2016.

Teaching Interests: Cultural Anthropology, Applied Anthropology, Environmental Justice, Social Movements, Political Ecology, Qualitative Methods

Research Interests: Social and political activism, relationship between people and the environment, social dimensions of mining and natural resource extraction, conflicts over place identity and landscape change, perception and experience of environmental hazard, community organizing and democracy, disability rights


    • Ph D Anthropology
      Binghamton University
      Binghamton, NY, 2009
    • MA Anthropology
      Binghamton University
      Binghamton, NY, 2003
    • BA Sociology
      Trinity Christian College
      Palos Heights, IL, 2000

Intellectual Contributions


    • Pearson, T. (2017). When the Hills Are Gone: Frac Sand Mining and the Struggle for Community. , In press, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

    Book Review

    • Pearson, T. (Accepted). Review of "Of Medicines and Markets: Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Free Trade Era". Political and Legal Anthropology Review.
    • Pearson, T. (2013). Review of "Seeds, Science and Struggle: The Global Politics of Transgenic Crops". American Journal of Human Biology, 25(6), 854-855.

    Journal Article

    • Pearson, T. (2016). Frac Sand Mining and the Disruption of Place, Landscape, and Community in Wisconsin. Human Organization, 75(1), 47-58.
    • Pearson, T. (2015). Public Anthropology and the Academic Labor Movement: Lessons from the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising. Anthropology of Work Review, 36(2), 52-61.
    • Pearson, T. (2013). Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin: Understanding Emerging Conflicts and Community Ogranizing. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE), 35(1), 30-40.
    • Pearson, T. (2013). ‘Life is Not for Sale!’: Confronting Free Trade and Intellectual Property in Costa Rica. American Anthropologist, 115(1), 58-71.
    • Pearson, T. (2012). Transgenic-Free Territories in Costa Rica: Networks, Place, and the Politics of Life. American Ethnologist, 39(1), 90-105.
    • Pearson, T. (2011). Naturaleza, neoliberalismo, y soberanía: la vida como espacio de lucha en Costa Rica [Nature, Neoliberalism, and Sovereignty: Life as Space of Struggle in Costa Rica]. Revista Biocenosis , 24(1-2), 45-53.
    • Pearson, T. (2009). On the Trail of Living Modified Organisms: Environmentalism within and against Neoliberal Order. Cultural Anthropology, 24(4), 712-745.

    Anthropology News

    • Pearson, T. (2014). The ExtrAction Topical Interest Group: Anthropology at the Frontiers of Energy Development (Anthropology News). Anthropology News, 55(2), online.
    • Pearson, T. (2007). Biosafety and Social Activism in Central America (Anthropology News). Anthropology News, 48(3), 41-42.

    Book, Chapter

    • Pearson, T. W. (2010). A soberania e a vida em si: a crítica ambientalista da propriedade intelectual na Costa Rica [Sovereignty and Life Itself: The Environmentalist Critique of Intellectual Property in Costa Rica]. IN Leal, O. F., & Vergara de Souza, R. H. (Eds.), Do regime de propiedade intelectual: estudos antropológicos , 263-278, Porto Alegre: Tomo Editorial.



    • Pearson, T. (2017). Citizen Efforts to Regulate Mining at the Local Level: Lessons from Wisconsin’s Frac Sand Counties. Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe, NM.
    • Pearson, T. (2015). Mining, Corporate Citizenship, and Industry Tactics to Assert Belonging in Wisconsin’s Sand Hills. American Anthropological Association, Denver, CO.
    • Pearson, T. (2015). Mining Public Relations: Industry Tactics to Assert Belonging in Wisconsin’s Sand Hills. Association of American Geographers, Chicago, IL.
    • Pearson, T. (2014). Out from the Underground and Back Again: The Competing Social Imaginaries of Wisconsin Frac Sand. American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC.
    • Pearson, T. (2014). Social Impacts along the Hydrocarbon Commodity Chain: Frac-Sand Mining in Wisconsin. The Implications of Hydraulic Fracturing for Creating Sustainable Communities, Binghamton, NY.
    • Pearson, T. (2013). Mining for Frac Sand in Wisconsin: Local Democracy, Community Organizing, and the Politics of Landscape. Society for Applied Anthropology, Denver, CO.
    • Pearson, T. (2012). The Political Ecology of Frac-Sand Mining in Wisconsin. American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, CA.
    • Pearson, T. (2012). Anthropology and Academic Labor: Lessons from the Wisconsin Uprising. American Ethnological Society, New York, NY.
    • Pearson, T. (2010). Purity and Place in the Global Bioeconomy: Transgenic Free Territories in Costa Rica. American Anthropological Association, New Orleans, LA.
    • Pearson, T. (2009). Networking Environmentalism at the End of Civil Society. American Anthropological Association, Philadelphia, PA.
    • Pearson, T. (2009). ¡Yo Firmo por la Vida! Activism, Civil Society, and IPR in Costa Rica. Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe, NM.
    • Pearson, T. (2008). Defending ‘Life Itself’ from IPR: Environmentalists against Free Trade in Costa Rica. American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, CA.
    • Pearson, T. (2006). On Biosafety: Bio-vigilantes, Bio-audits, and the Management of Life in Central America. American Anthropological Association, San Jose, CA.

    Oral Presentation

    • Pearson, T. (October 29, 2016). Frac Sand Mining and Quality of Life: Understanding Potential Social Impacts. Save the Hills Alliance Annual Meeting, Menomonie, WI.
    • Pearson, T. (April 7, 2016). Grassroots Activism Along the Hydrocarbon Commodity Chain: Wisconsin Frac Sand Mining. Wisconsin Tar Sands Resistance Tour, Menomonie, WI.
    • Pearson, T. (October 12, 2014). Frac Sand Mining: How Alliances with Towns & Counties Helped Defeat Efforts to Strip Local Control. Wisconsin Sierra Club Autumn Assembly, Mukwonago, WI.


    • Pearson, T. (May 12, 2014). Landscapes of Extraction in Wisconsin. Center for Culture, History, and Environment, UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Chippewa Falls, WI.
    • Pearson, T. (2013). Anthropology, Extractive Industries, and Unconventional Energy. American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL.
    • Pearson, T. (November 13, 2012). The Impacts of Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin. Community Environmental Forum, UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Madison, WI.

Media Contributions


    • Contested Landscapes - wisconsinfracsand.blogspot.com (2016)

      A research blog documenting the social, economic, and environmental impacts of frac sand mining. Started in 2012.


    • Wisconsin Farmers Union News 69(9):4-5. (2012)

      Does frac sand create socioeconomic well-being?

    • Dunn County News (September 5, 2012)

      Op-ed contributor, "Sand doesn’t equal community well-being."

    • Dunn County News (June 6, 2012)

      Op-ed contributor, "Frac sand and its effect on local democracy."


    • Joy Cardin Show, Wisconsin Public Radio (November 12, 2012)

      Interviewed about the social impacts of frac sand mining.

Reviewer / Editor

    Reviewer, Journal

    • Human Organization (2014 - Present)
    • Society & Natural Resources (2016)
    • American Ethnologist (2014)
    • Political Ecology (2014)
    • Anthropology Today (2013)
    • Cultural Anthropology (2010)
    • Ethnography (2010)

    Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer

    • National Science Foundation (2016)

    Reviewer, Book

    • University of Wisconsin-Press (2014)



      UW Stout

      • Assistant Director, Honors College (June 2016 - Present)
      • Advisory Board Member, Center for Applied Ethics (2013 - Present)
      • Representative, General Education Committee (August 2015 - May 2019)


    • Board of Directors, House Calls of Menomonie (July 2013 - Present)