Sociology ProgramDepartment of Sociology and Anthropology
Sociology Program

Dr. Christopher A. Thoms


Dr.Christopher Thoms

Fixed-term Assistant Professor of Sociology


Phone: 320.308.4168

Dr. Thom's CV

Dr. Christopher Thoms completed his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in December 2004. His dissertation research was an organizational study of the United Kingdom’s Livelihoods and Forestry Programme that examined the role of development aid in shaping community forestry policy, practice and social outcomes in Nepal.  Dr. Thoms first become interested in Nepal and its community forestry program as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1997. He remains an active scholar

A Wisconsin native, Dr. Thoms grew up in a working class family in the decidedly blue-collar city of Milwaukee. Dr. Thoms is a first generation college student in his family. Although higher education was unfamiliar territory, Dr. Thoms quickly became enamored of learning at his undergraduate institution the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, which led him to pursue a Master’s degree at Colorado State University and later a Ph.D. A short study-abroad experience sparked a passion for travel and global issues, and Dr. Thoms is now a devoted internationalist who has traveled, studied, lived, and conducted research in a diversity of countries including Germany, Poland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, Nepal, India, Great Britain, Peru, and even exotic Canada.

Courses Taught

  • Soc 111: Social Problems
  • Soc 160: Principles of Sociology
  • Soc 200: Social Dimensions of Environmental Change (aka Environmental Sociology)

Prior to coming to SCSU, Dr. Thoms taught courses at Knox College, Colby College and Whitman College, including Environmental Justice; Conservation, Development and Social Justice; and Complex Organizations, among others.

Research Interests

Dr. Thoms’ work and interests focus on environment and natural resources but bridge several sociological areas including institutions and organizations, political sociology, development, social stratification and social justice. His research work can be characterized as a political sociology of the environment that examines the role of organizational and institutional structures, processes and outputs in shaping environmental/natural resource outcomes, particularly as they relate to social justice and stratification. That is, Dr. Thoms studies the environmental role of complex organizations with special attention to social justice issues of environmental management and governance.

Dr. Thoms is particularly interested in the relationship among natural resource policy and governance, government agencies and other complex organizations, local institutional environments, social stratification, and natural resource access in contexts of changing environments. His research program is focused on (1) the potential of locally-based natural resource management to conserve resources, reduce poverty and promote inclusive governance and sustainable livelihoods in rural areas, (2) ways that exogenous, spatially distant (particularly international) organizations influence local environmental institutions, governance and access, which in turn affects sustainability and social stratification, and (3) the role of networks and complex formal organizations in shaping natural resource management, policy, and access.

Currently Dr. Thoms’ is conducting research and scholarship in several areas. This includes:

1) exploring whether environmental goods (i.e. forest products) in conditions of resource scarcity disproportionately accrue to households of high wealth/status with a dataset from Nepal.

2) examining how network approaches help explain co-dependence and mutual constraint among cross-scale inter-organizational actors in environmental management and rural development.

3) a new research project examining the organizational aspects of collaborative watershed management and the development of a shared governance partnership for the Walla Walla Water Basin in Southeastern Washington.  There is limited research examining watershed partnerships as organizations themselves or examining the development of such collaborative organizations.

Publications and Presentations

Refereed Journals

Thoms, Christopher A. 2011. Co-Constructing Community Forests in Nepal: Mutual Constraint in a Transnational Aid Network. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research 3(3): 303-314.

Benjamin, Charlie, Steven R. Brechin and Christopher A. Thoms. 2011. Introduction to the Special Issue: Organizational Networks and Environmental Governance. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research 3(3): 211-222.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2008. Community Control of Resources and the Challenge of Improving Local Livelihoods: A Critical Examination of Community Forestry in Nepal.  Geoforum. 39(3): 1452-1465

Thoms, Christopher A. 2007. Constituting Forest Communities in the Hills of Nepal. International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management. 3(2): 115-125.

Thoms, Christopher. 2006 (published May 2009). Some Thoughts on the Democratization of Community Forestry in Nepal. Himalaya. 26(1-2): 25-32.

Thoms, Christopher A., Birendra K. Karna and Mukunda B. Karmacharya. 2006.  Limitations of Leasehold Forestry for Poverty Alleviation in Nepal. Society and Natural Resources. 19(10): 931-938.

Thoms, Christopher. 2006. Conservation Success, Livelihoods Failure? Community Forestry in Nepal.  Policy Matters No. 14: 169-179.

Thoms, Christopher A., Mukunda B. Karmacharya and Birendra K. Karna. 2003. Exclusion Isn't Easy: Lessons from a Leasehold Forest. Journal of Forest and Livelihood. 2(2): 48-54.

Thoms, Christopher A. and David R. Betters. 1998. The Potential for Ecosystem Management in Mexico's Forest Ejidos. Forest Ecology and Management. 103: 149-157.

Garten, Chuck, Michael Huston and Christopher A. Thoms. 1994. Topographic Variation of Soil Nitrification in Walker Branch Watershed. Forest Science. 40(3): 497-512.

Book Reviews

Review of Reimagining Political Ecology. (Duke University Press, 2006). 2008 in, Society and Natural Resources, 21(8): 748-750

Review of State, Communities and Forests in Contemporary Borneo. (Australia National University, 2006). 2007 in, Rural Sociology, 72(4): 651-653.

Review of High Frontiers: Dolpo and the Changing World of Himalayan Pastoralists. (Columbia University Press, 2004). 2006 in, Himalaya XXIII (2): Winter, 2006

In Progress

Finan, Ann and Christopher A. Thoms. Complexity in community: How wealth and the needs of agriculture shape Community Forests in Nepal. Submitted to Society and Natural Resources

Thoms, Christopher A.  On Reforming Community Forestry: Improving Governance, Improving LivelihoodsRevise and resubmit to Forest Policy and Economics.

Thoms, Christopher A. and Ann S. Finan. The effects of social position on perceptions of and access to natural resource decision making. In preparation for Rural Sociology. 18 pages.

Thoms, Christopher A. and Hemant Ojha.  Shifting Community Forestry Policy in Nepal: Devolutionary Recalibration, or RecaptureIn preparation for Environment and Organization or Society and Natural Resources.   35 pages.

Conference Presentations

Thoms, Christopher A. 2011. Understanding the Organizational Development of the Walla Walla Shared Governance Partnership. The 17th Annual International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, June 4-8, 2011, Madison, WI

Thoms, Christopher A. and Ann S. Finan. 2011. The Agricultural Importance of Community Forests in Nepal: Ideological and Material Connections. Presented at the 2011 Meeting of the MSS, March 24-27 2011, St. Louis, MO

Thoms, Christopher A. and Ann S. Finan. 2010. Forests, Farms and Food: An examination of community forest survey data from Nepal. Presented at the 2010 Meeting of the RSS, August 12-15 2007, Atlanta, GA

Thoms, Christopher A. 2008. Co-Constructing Community Forests in Nepal: Mutual Constraint in an Aid Network. Rural Sociological Society 71st Annual Meeting; July 28-31, 2008, Manchester, NH.

Thoms, Christopher A., Steve Brechin, and Charlie Benjamin. 2008. Organizing Nature: Towards a Framework for Understanding how Organizational Networks Shape and Politicize Landscapes. The 2008 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April 15-19, 2008, Boston, MA.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2007. Shifting Community Forestry Policy in Nepal: Devolutionary Recalibration, or Recapture? 36th Annual Conference on South Asia, October 11-14, 2007, Madison, WI.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2007. Co-Constructing Community Forests in Nepal: Network Ontology and Mutual Constraint in Trans-national Aid.  The 2007 Maxwell Workshop on Organizations and the Natural Environment, May 22-24, Syracuse, NY.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2007. Nepal’s Community Forestry Program: Promise and Pitfalls.  The 2007 Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April 17-21 2007, San Francisco, CA.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2006. Distant Actors, Local Action: The Role of Exogenous Actors in Shaping Nepalese Community Forestry. XIVth International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology, October 18-21, 2006, Bar Harbor, ME.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2006. Community Control of Resources and Improving Local Livelihoods: The Success and Failure of Community Forestry in Nepal.  The 12th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, June 3-8, 2006, Vancouver, BC.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2005. Some Thoughts on the Democratization of Community Forestry in Nepal. 34th Annual Conference on South Asia, October 7-9, 2005, Madison, WI.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2005. Actor-Network Theory in Community and Natural Resources Research.  Midwest Sociological Society 2005 Annual Meeting; March 31-April 3 2005. Minneapolis, MN.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2004. Livelihood forestry in rural Nepal: The need for partnership. Rural Sociological Society 67th Annual Meeting; August 12-15, 2004, Sacramento, CA.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2003. Setting and Ensuring Goals in a Devolved Resource Management System: Paradox in Nepal. 32nd Annual Conference on South Asia, October 24-26, 2003, Madison, WI.

Thoms, Christopher A. 2000. The Inadequacy of Article 27 Reforms in Shaping Sustainable Ejidos. "Constituting the Commons", the 8th annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property, May 31-June 4, 2000, Bloomington, IN.

Fun Stuff

On rare occasions when Dr. Thoms has time to recreate, he enjoys biking, hiking, martial arts, reading fantasy and science fiction, and complex, strategy board games.