Tools of the Trade: Anthropologists

As part of our “Tools of the Trade” blog series, we’re highlighting resources for social science scholars and educators to aid in your research, writing, and prep work this summer. Look no further for a refresher of methods that you can use in your own work or share with your students.

Enrich Your Ethnographic Research

Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, Thirtieth Anniversary Edition by Paul Rabinow

In this landmark study, Paul Rabinow takes as his focus the fieldwork that anthropologists do. How valid is the process? To what extent do the cultural data become artifacts of the interaction between anthropologist and informants? Having first published a more standard ethnographic study about Morocco, Rabinow here describes a series of encounters with his informants in that study, from a French innkeeper clinging to the vestiges of a colonial past, to the rural descendants of a seventeenth-century saint.

 

How Forests Think: Toward and Anthropology of Being Human by Eduardo Kohn

Can forests think? Do dogs dream? In this astonishing book, Eduardo Kohn challenges the very foundations of anthropology, calling into question our central assumptions about what it means to be human—and thus distinct from all other life forms. Avoiding reductionistic solutions, and without losing sight of how our lives and those of others are caught up in the moral webs we humans spin, this book skillfully fashions new kinds of conceptual tools from the strange and unexpected properties of the living world itself.

 

The Extended Case Method: Four Countries, Four Centuries, Four Great Transformations, and One Theoretical Tradition by Michael Burawoy

In this remarkable collection of essays, Michael Burawoy develops the extended case method by connecting his own experiences among workers of the world to the great transformations of the twentieth century—the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and its satellites, the reconstruction of U.S. capitalism, and the African transition to post-colonialism in Zambia. These essays, presented with a perspective that has benefited from time and rich experience, offer ethnographers a theory and a method for developing novel understandings of epochal change.

 

Being There: The Fieldwork Encounter and the Making of the Truth edited by John Borneman and Abdellah Hammoudi

Challenges to ethnographic authority and to the ethics of representation have led many contemporary anthropologists to abandon fieldwork in favor of strategies of theoretical puppeteering, textual analysis, and surrogate ethnography. In Being ThereJohn Borneman and Abdellah Hammoudi argue that ethnographies based on these strategies elide important insights.

 

Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization by Khiara Bridges

Reproducing Race, an ethnography of pregnancy and birth at a large New York City public hospital, explores the role of race in the medical setting. Khiara M. Bridges investigates how race—commonly seen as biological in the medical world—is socially constructed among women dependent on the public healthcare system for prenatal care and childbirth.

 

 

Driving after Class: Anxious Times in the American Suburb by Rachel Heiman

“Rugged entitlement” is Heiman’s name for the middle class’s sense of entitlement to a way of life that is increasingly untenable and that is accompanied by an anxious feeling that they must vigilantly pursue their own interests to maintain and further their class position. Driving after Class is a model of fine-grained ethnography that shows how families try to make sense of who they are and where they are going in a highly competitive and uncertain time.

 

They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers by Sarah Bronwen Horton

They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields takes the reader on an ethnographic tour of the melon and corn harvesting fields of California’s Central Valley to understand why farmworkers suffer heatstroke and chronic illness at rates higher than workers in any other industry. Through captivating accounts of the daily lives of a core group of farmworkers over nearly a decade, Sarah Bronwen Horton documents in startling detail how a tightly interwoven web of public policies and private interests creates exceptional and needless suffering.

 

Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South by Angela Steusse

Based on the author’s six years of collaboration with a local workers’ center, this book explores how Black, white, and new Latino Mississippians have lived and understood these transformations. Activist anthropologist Angela Stuesse argues that people’s racial identifications and relationships to the poultry industry prove vital to their interpretations of the changes they are experiencing


Day Without Immigrants

Today, immigrants across the country have decided to miss work, skip school, and not shop as part of the “Day without Immigrants” protest. The protest aims to demonstrate the true nature of the economic impact of immigrants in the workforce and in our everyday lives.

Below are some additional titles that share the contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy.

And learn more about how to integrate immigration topics into lecture discussion by using an Immigration Syllabus to foster a broader understanding of immigrants’ impact on U.S. society.

Share using #DayWithoutImmigrants.


How Workers Became Criminals Overnight

By Sarah Bronwen Horton, author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers

A phrase tucked into President Trump’s January 25 immigration executive order makes millions of undocumented workers into wanted criminals. The order states that anyone who has engaged in “willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency” is a priority for removal. Chillingly, this phrase can apply to any undocumented immigrant who presents fake work authorization papers and signs a government form—the I-9—, which is required to apply for a job. With the stroke of a pen, President Trump has transformed 8 million undocumented workers—5% of our workforce—into deportable “criminal aliens.”

In industries like agriculture, federal immigration enforcement and the prospect of workplace raids already depress working conditions and enable workplace abuses. By transforming undocumented workers into criminals, Trump’s executive order further jeopardizes their working conditions. It tips the scale even further in employers’ favor by allowing them to reap the benefits of a workforce fearful of being implicated in fraud.

The irony is that a close examination of undocumented immigrants’ workplace conditions shatters the myth that they are “identity thieves.” It is no secret that in industries dependent upon undocumented labor, many supervisors collude with their workers to ensure they are hired. Yet in farm work—an industry that employs the most vulnerable workers—some supervisors go so far as to make workers’ employment conditional upon their working the valid documents of supervisors’ own friends and family.” In They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields, I describe the way that labor supervisors themselves have learned to profit from this arrangement, even as they make their friends and family money.

Employers have a great deal to gain from engaging in document fraud. There is evidence that supervisors gave workers work authorization documents in several of the massive workplace raids at the end of the Bush era—at Pilgrim’s Pride and Agriprocessors, Inc. in 2008. By masking the identities of their undocumented workers, supervisors are able to disguise the presence of “illegal” workers and hide the crime of their hire.

President Trump’s executive order is but the latest in a series of policies since the 1990s that conflate hard-working immigrants with “criminal” scourges. Yet in reality, employers—along with the private prison companies who helped finance Trump’s campaign—reap tremendous profit from undocumented workers’ vulnerability. I wrote my book in large part to show how such criminalization has undermined working conditions for immigrants and those who work alongside them. If President Trump uses his executive order to target undocumented workers for the mere “crime” of working, this would be a gross miscarriage of justice indeed.


Sarah Bronwen Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver. Her work was recently featured in an interview on Colorado Public Radio. Learn more at http://www.sarahbhorton.com/.


An Immigrant’s Identity

The upcoming presidential election has once again brought immigration issues to the forefront of national discussion. From Donald Trump’s border wall to the near-daily stories we hear of racial profiling, candidates and citizens alike are discussing how the lives of Latin American immigrants in the U.S. are complicated by immigration law and reform.

An Identity for Work 

Sarah B. Horton, author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers discusses in her book the impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) on immigrants’ daily lives.

kidneys.hortonScholars of immigration law denaturalize migrant “illegality” by direct­ing our attention to how it is legally produced. Indeed, federal and state policies—specifically, IRCA and the exclusion of undocumented migrants from unemployment insurance—enable and encourage iden­tity loan. The passage of IRCA in 1986 criminalized the employment of undocumented workers, making it illegal for employers to knowingly hire such workers. With the aim of reducing employment as an incen­tive for migration, IRCA requires employers to personally inspect each employee’s documents proving their identity (usually a mica, or green card) and their eligibility for work (a seguro, or Social Security card). Employers must record this information on a federal I-9 form and keep a copy for three years. Although IRCA imposes sanctions on employers who violate its provisions, it contains a loophole that protects employ­ers from such penalties: it does not require them to verify the authentic­ity of employees’ documents. As a result, employers are considered to be complying with the law as long as the documents they accept “appear on their face to be genuine.” Thus while IRCA has done little to curb the employment of undocumented workers, it has created a thriving black market for fraudulent work-authorization documents.

In a Huffington Post article titled “The Hole in Trump’s Wall,” Horton discusses the issues in Donald Trump’s border wall plan. His plan includes mandating e-Verify for all employers. Horton notes that Trump’s “plan does not address the role of employers in getting around immigration laws and providing workers with the documents they need. In fact, just like employer sanctions before it, E-Verify is likely to worsen workplace conditions for all those who work in industries dominated by undocumented workers.”

Forms of Identification

Angela Stuesse, author of Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep Southwent deep into Mississippi’s chicken processing plants and communities, where Latin American migrants, alongside an established African American workforce, continue to work in some of the most dangerous and lowest-paid jobs in the country. Stuesse writes:

Scratching Out a Living StuessePermitted to obtain a driver’s license, I didn’t worry that at a traffic stop I might lose an entire month’s earnings to fines or be detained or deported. I might be pulled over because of my out-of-state license plate, but not likely because of my fair skin and hair. With a social security number, I had a bank account and thus didn’t have to worry that my only savings could be stolen from underneath my mattress. Despite my concerns that I would have a hard time finding affordable rental housing in Forest, I was ultimately able to find a two-bedroom house on an acre of land for far less than most poultry workers pay to share a dilapidated trailer. These privileges of race, class, and citizenship were palpable as I went about my daily life in Mississippi, fighting alongside others in their struggle to access such basic human rights as dignity on the job, a living wage, minimal health and safety protections, affordable housing, and the ability to help their families thrive.

In another Huffington Post article, both Stuesse and Horton discuss the dangers of “Driving While Latino” and the impact of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), which enables “state and local police to investigate, arrest and detain any noncitizen they believe has violated immigration laws—a responsibility previously reserved for federal immigration authorities alone. … This has created a gauntlet of immigrant policing that stretches across the country and operates through the intensified surveillance of immigrants as they go about their daily lives.”

What are your thoughts on current immigration reform?


Horton.photoSarah Bronwen Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver. To learn more about Sarah, please visit http://www.sarahbhorton.com/.

 

 

Stuesse-Author-Photo-2014-146x150Angela Stuesse is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Learn more about Dr. Stuesse here: www.angelastuesse.com/bio/


They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields

by Sarah Horton, author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Injury, Illness, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers

This guest post is published in advance of the American Anthropological Association conference in Denver. Check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Sunday, November 22nd.

kidneys

You write in your introduction that your book is based on nearly a decade of research on the health of the same group of migrant farmworkers. What are the advantages of a longitudinal approach? 

Originally, I had not intended to conduct a longitudinal study of my interviewees’ health. Yet as I continued to follow the same individuals over time, I was shocked to find that women younger than I had developed hypertension, that men younger than my own father were diagnosed with kidney failure. I came to the realization that my data provided a sequential snapshot of my interviewees’ declining health. And I began to see that understanding the cumulative health insults farmworkers suffered in turn was key to explaining their work ailments—and in particular, why they died from heat at work at a rate higher than any other occupational group.

A longitudinal approach has the advantage of allowing me to witness first-hand the unfolding of the major health challenges migrant farmworkers face: diagnoses of chronic disease made in the Emergency Room after hemorrhages and strokes, of diabetes through chance employer-provided screenings, of chronic kidney disease at its end-stage. It allowed me to “see” the hidden relationships between macro-level forces and the chronic illnesses migrant farmworkers face, such as how immigration and work stresses get under their skin and culminate in higher rates of chronic disease. And it allowed me to trace the connections between migrants’ chronic diseases—which the public health world often treats as though separate, bounded entities—and the illnesses they develop at work, which in turn were shaped by U.S. immigration and labor policies. In short, a long-term perspective helps illuminate the compounded effects of social inequality over farmworkers’ life-course, deepening the synchronic snapshot often provided by ethnographic immersion.

Why do you focus your book on the issue of heat death? What do you want readers to take away about the causes of heat death among migrant farmworkers?

From the perspective of a casual reader of a newspaper over a morning cup of coffee, heat deaths in the nation’s fields may appear an unfortunate and perhaps inevitable by-product of global warming and rising temperatures. What I aim to show in my book is that this perspective naturalizes a public health problem that is socially and politically produced, and therefore entirely amenable to intervention. I show that farmworkers’ historic exemption from the labor protections that middle class Americans take for granted forces them to expend exceptional effort to keep their jobs, all the while recently-intensified immigration control policies entangle them in new forms of legal compromise that make them even more vulnerable at work. Yet, of course, heat death isn’t merely a matter of farmworkers’ vulnerability at work; it implicates a host of other systems—the health care system, the disability and retirement systems, and even our current food safety system—that systematically fail this vulnerable population. This book documents how a web of public policies and private interests create health outcomes anomalous in a modern industrialized nation.

Thus heat death is merely the narrative hook for a broader story about how U.S. policies produce the worse health outcomes and shorter lifespans of migrant farmworkers. Because this book uses farmworkers’ narratives and experiences as the raw material from which to create this critique, it serves as a kind of social epidemiology detective story.

Why do you make your primary focus the changing circumstances of the same set of families over time? How does this change your own positionality and obligations as a researcher?  

A primary aim of this book is unabashedly humanistic—that is, to convey the texture of farmworkers’ everyday lives such that their worlds appear less foreign to readers. To help accomplish this, I follow the lives of a cast of characters over time. This allows readers to acquaint themselves with farmworkers as individuals and to watch as events in their lives unfold. It highlights the diversity in immigrant farmworkers’ experiences, as readers inhabit the shoes of male and female farmworkers and those at varying stages in the life course. Moreover, I also use it with the goal of attribution—that is, of decentering ethnographic authority and giving my migrant interlocutors their due.

Situating my research among migrant farmworkers themselves implies a particular set of loyalties and, in turn, a corresponding set of obligations. While this positioning provided me a window onto the vulnerabilities of migrants’ lives, it also gave me access to the illicit strategies farmworkers must use to circumvent immigration policies, find work, and survive economically. Because intensive engagement with vulnerable populations makes visible a population that often aims to remain invisible, researchers need to carefully consider the issue of dissemination—what we say and before what audiences, what we leave unspoken, and whether academic scholarship should be accompanied by a plan for public dissemination and engagement.

Finally, intensive engagement with vulnerable populations requires action. Witnessing the daily struggles of immigrant farmworkers compels a form of moral engagement that stems from empathic listening. A turn towards advocacy and activism is a logical extension of the norm of reciprocity that underlies anthropologists’ intense engagement with our subjects.


Sarah B. Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver.