Dr. Elena McGrath

In time of revolution the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal.

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

Is Orwell right? Does the revolution have to exploit the labor of workers and destroy natural resources? This is where my research begins.

First, I am a historian of revolutionary movements, race, gender, and naturalĀ resourcesĀ in Latin America, with an emphasis on the Bolivian Andes. I think about the way that both culture and material conditions create revolutions: both the coal and miner shape history.

Second, I like to think about what it means to belong to a community, particularly in times of great change. What kinds of communities form in reaction to oppression, division, hierarchy, and colonization? What kinds of visions sustain them?

For example, what did the Bolivian national revolution of 1952 mean to those who fought for it? You can read about my current book project and future projects here.

You can read some of my writings online and in journals here.

I am also a host of the New Books in Latin American Studies Podcast.

mineworker statue Oruro photo credit ecmcgrath 2013

History is a powerful critical tool for understanding our world and helping to change it. My teaching interests include histories of the US/Mexico Border and the Latinx Americas, Histories of Race, Gender and Sexuality, Indigenous History of the Americas, and Environmental History of the Americas. You can read more about specific classes I have taught here and writings about teaching here.

My Background

I was born in California and raised mostly in Colorado and have been a teacher most of my adult life. I live in Troy, NY and teach history at Union College.

I hold a PhD in Latin American History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BA in History from Reed College in Oregon.

Before coming to Union, I taught at Carleton College, the University of Virginia, and a worked as a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies in London.

As a graduate student, I taught courses in global history for incarcerated men at the Oakhill Correctional Institution in Oregon, WI. Before graduate school, I worked in the Portland Public Schools and at Portland Community College.