Gregory Morton

Assistant Professor

Main Affiliation



North Academic Center



Photo of Gregory Morton

Gregory Morton


Gregory Duff Morton is an economic anthropologist and social worker. He wants to know how people send value across borders in the Americas.

Morton pays close attention to movements of money through Northeastern Brazil. He follows the cash that migrant workers carry home in their pockets, the wages disbursed by the owners of coffee plantations, and the payouts that come from the world’s largest welfare program. Morton asks: Why do rural Brazilians leave the countryside? When they return, what do they bring with them?

Morton has a special interest in social movements on the left, and he spends much of his time wondering how groups of people can organize themselves to undo social inequality. A key example, for him, is the MST, Brazil’s landless movement, which brings small farmers together to occupy plantations.

Morton is also concerned with the practical questions that social service providers ask themselves as they strive to help people. Morton engages with migrants in the US who are navigating the social service system. Often, migrants cross back and forth between two service systems: one in their home country and one in the US. In this double context, how do you care for elderly family, save your wages, plan for retirement, and raise a child? These are practical problems. They are also clues about the methods that a government has developed in order to manage the contradictions of capital. Morton feels especially fascinated by the comparison between the US welfare state and Latin American welfare states. Each national welfare system, in his view, is created through a delicate compromise hammered out between workers and bosses, family members and bureaucrats, citizens and people excluded from citizenship.  By understanding this compromise – and by realizing how different it looks in each country – we can equip ourselves to confront the inequalities so characteristic of public life in the Americas.


PhD, Anthropology and Social Service Administration, University of Chicago 2015.

AM, Social Service Administration (MSW Equivalent), University of Chicago 2009.


Peoples of Latin America; Latinidades in Service: Mental Health, Migration, and Human Services across Borders

Research Interests

Comparative Welfare States; Conditional Cash Transfers; Urban-to Rural Migration; Marxism in Anthropology; Northeastern Brazil; Plantations and Pleasantries; Social Work and Anthropology; Linguistic Anthropology; Meetings Inside Organizations

Select Publications

With multiple co-authors. “Recommendations on Brazil to President Biden and the new administration: Policy paper.” US Network for Democracy in Brazil (January 2021).

Büyükokutan, Barış, Marco Garrido, Benjamin Merriman, Gregory Duff Morton, and Besnik Pula. “A global authoritarian turn?” Trajectories: Newsletter of the ASA Comparative and Historical Sociology Section 31(1-2): 8-16 (Fall 2019/ Winter 2020).

Co-editor (with Adam Sargent) for special collection, “Remuneration in an Unequal World,” Anthropological Quarterly 92(3), Summer 2019.

Sargent, Adam and Gregory Duff Morton. “Introduction: What happened to the wage?” Anthropological Quarterly, 92(3): 635-662 (2019).

Morton, Gregory Duff. “How work counts: Time, self-employment, and wagelessness in rural Brazil.” Anthropological Quarterly 92(3): 663-696 (2019).

Morton, Gregory Duff. “The power of lump sums: Using maternity payment schedules to reduce the gender asset gap in households reached by Brazil’s Bolsa Família conditional cash transfer.” World Development, 113: 352-367 (2019).

Morton, Gregory Duff. “Saying no: Bolsa Família, self-employment, and the rejection of jobs in northeastern Brazil.” Chapter 10, pages 178-192 in Money from the Government in Latin America: Conditional Cash Transfer Programs and Rural Lives. Maria Elisa Balen and Martin Fotta, eds. Abingdon: Routledge (2019).

Morton, Gregory Duff. “Blood on the land in Brazil.” New York Review of Books Daily. March 5, 2018.

Morton, Gregory Duff. “Neoliberal eclipse: Donald Trump, corporate monopolism, and the changing face of work.” Dialectical Anthropology, 42(2): 207-225 (2018). 

Morton, Gregory Duff. “Types of permanence: Conditional cash, economic difference, and gender practice in rural northeastern Brazil.” Chapter 3, pages 113-140 in Cash Transfers in Context: An Anthropological Perspective. J.P. Olivier de Sardan and E. Piccoli, eds. New York: Berghahn Books (2018). (Text of chapter is close, but not identical, to Portuguese-language article “Acesso à permanência,” below).

Morton, Gregory Duff. “Managing transience: Bolsa Família and its subjects in an MST landless settlement.” Journal of Peasant Studies, 42 (6): 1283-1305 (2015). Republished as a chapter in Tarlau, Rebecca and Anthony Pahnke, eds. Brazilian Agrarian Social Movements. Abingdon: Routledge (2016).

Morton, Gregory Duff. “Modern meetings: Participation, democracy, and language ideology in Brazil’s MST landless movement.” American Ethnologist, 41(4): 728-42 (2014).

Morton, Gregory Duff. “Protest before the protests: The unheard politics of a welfare panic in Brazil.” Anthropological Quarterly, 87(3): 925-933 (2014).

Morton, Gregory Duff. “Acesso à permanência: Diferenças econômicas e práticas de gênero em domicílios que recebem Bolsa Família no sertão baiano.” (“Accessing permanence: Economic difference and gender practice among households that receive Bolsa Família in the backlands of Bahia, Brazil.”) Política e Trabalho, 38: 43-67 (2013).