Orlando Patterson, a historical and cultural sociologist, is John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. His academic interests include the culture and practice of freedom; the comparative study of slavery and ethno-racial relations; the sociology of underdevelopment with special reference to the Caribbean; and the problems of gender and familial relations in the black societies of the Americas. He is especially interested in the ways that cultural processes relate to poverty and other social outcomes. Professor Patterson is the author of numerous academic papers and 5 major academic books including, Slavery and Social Death (1982); Freedom in the Making of Western Culture (1991); and The Ordeal of Integration (1997).
A public intellectual, Professor Patterson was Special Advisor for Social policy and development to Prime Minister Michael Manley of Jamaica for eight years. He was a founding member of Cultural Survival, one of the leading advocacy groups for the rights of indigenous peoples, and was for several years a board member of Freedom House, a major civic organization for the promotion of freedom and democracy around the world.
The author of three novels, he has published widely in journals of opinion and the national press, especially the New York Times, where he was recently a guest columnist for several weeks. His columns have also appeared in Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Public Interest, The New Republic, and the Washington Post. He is the recipient of many awards, including the National Book Award for Non-Fiction which he won in 1991 for his book on freedom; the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award of the American Sociological Association; and co-winner of the Ralph Bunche Award for the best book on pluralism from the American Political Science Association. He holds honorary degrees from several universities, including the University of Chicago, U.C.L.A and La Trobe University in Australia. He was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Government of Jamaica in 1999. Professor Patterson has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1991.