Patrick O’Grady

My education in history began in my sophomore year of my undergraduate studies. While at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, I migrated to the humanities from the natural sciences. I eventually came around to studying the Cold War under my advisor Dr. Jeff Jones, a scholar of the Soviet Union. Under his tutelage, I studied the agrarian reform policies of the Sandinistas, a revolutionary group that overthrew the United States-backed Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua in 1979. Using documents from rural peasant union leaders and from contra (a US-backed counterinsurgency group) demobilization studies, I discovered that because of the contra war and the nature of Sandinista rural policy, many peasants who had supported the rise of the Sandinistas came to back the contra forces. I argued in my senior thesis entitled You are Losing Touch with the People: Sandinista Agrarian Reform and Rural Opposition that peasants’ disagreements with the Sandinista leaders (who were less radical on land reform issues than one might expect) led to a general climate of dissatisfaction in the countryside which the United States weaponized into support for the contras to handicap the revolutionary government.

Also while at UNCG, I picked up a second major in anthropology. I draw a lot of my inspiration for the study of history from anthropologists like Julian Haynes Steward, Marvin Harris, Sidney Mintz, and perhaps most importantly Eric Wolf. I also draw a lot from cultural historians like E.P. Thompson and religious scholars like Joseph Campbell and Victor Turner. I take a lot of my influences from the Marxist tradition but other important elements also shape my epistemology. My mentor in the anthropology department was Dr. Arthur Murphy, who studies natural disasters in Mexico.

Looking forward, I would like to research how agrarian reform policies shape rural populations’ experiences of modernity. How does the mechanization of agriculture drive urbanization and migration both internal and transnational? What is the effect of so-called free trade agreements on peasant populations? How do infrastructure projects shape rural environments? What is the nature of the relationship between the urban and the rural? How can we historicize contemporary migration patterns? Drawing from anthropology, my work will heavily incorporate oral histories. I learned the importance of this perspective from ethnography but also from my undergraduate mentor Dr. Jeff Jones and from my current advisor Dr. Ed Murphy.

I am also passionate about teaching. I am currently a TA for Dr. Glenn Chambers in the class IAH 203.

Year in Program: 1st Year

Fields: Latin America

Advisor: Dr. Ed Murphy


Research Languages: Spanish

Educational Background: BA in History and BA in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2017