Labor and Legality An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-08-25
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Labor and Legality: Life in a Mexican Immigrant Network is an ethnography of undocumented immigrants who work as busboys at a Chicago-area restaurant. Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz introduces readers to the Lions, ten friends from Mexico committed to improving their fortunes and the lives of their families. Set in and around "Il Vino," a restaurant that could stand in for many places that employ undocumented workers, Labor and Legality reveals the faces behind the war being waged over "illegal aliens" in America. Gomberg-Muñoz focuses on how undocumented workers develop a wide range of social strategies to cultivate financial security, nurture emotional well-being, and promote their dignity and self-esteem. She also reviews the political and historical circumstances of undocumented migration, with an emphasis on post-1970 socioeconomic and political conditions in the United States and Mexico. Labor and Legality is one of several volumes in the Issues of Globalization: Case Studies in Contemporary Anthropology series, which examines the experiences of individual communities in our contemporary world. Each volume offers a brief and engaging exploration of a particular issue arising from globalization and its cultural, political, and economic effects on certain peoples or groups. Ideal for introductory anthropology courses-and as supplements for a variety of upper-level courses-these texts seamlessly combine portraits of an interconnected and globalized world with narratives that emphasize the agency of their subjects.

Author Biography

Ruth Gomberg-Muoz is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work has been published in American Anthropologist and the Journal for Latino-Latin American Studies.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. 1
Meet the Lionsp. 5
A Dog's Life: Luisp. 5
I Want Respect at My Job: Renep. 7
Meet the Lionsp. 10
Il Vino Buonop. 15
What Does a Busboy Do?p. 17
How Do the Lions Compare to Other Groups of Workers?p. 18
Why is There Undocumented Migration?p. 22
Papa Juan's Storyp. 22
A History of Mexican Labor Migration to the United Statesp. 26
The Beginnings of Borders in North Americap. 26
The Seeds of Globalization: Development and Migrationp. 27
The Roots Take Hold: The Breadbasket and the Bracero Programp. 30
Reaping the Harvest: The Political Production of "Illegal Immigration"p. 32
Politics of Marginalizationp. 34
Politics of Labor Reproductionp. 36
Jumping and Adjusting to Life Under the Radarp. 41
Migration: Chuy's Storyp. 41
Life in Leónp. 44
Family Strategiesp. 47
The Price of Crossingp. 52
Life Under the Radar: Papersp. 53
Life Under the Radar: Getting Adjustedp. 55
Changing Ideas of Home: Return Migration and Return-Return Migrationp. 59
Múy Unidos: Friends, Networks, and Householdsp. 63
Having Friends Makes Things Easier: Alejandrop. 63
Utilizing a Social Network: Finding Workp. 65
Money and Respect: Assessing Jobs and Bossesp. 67
Getting Paid and Managing Moneyp. 71
Utilizing a Social Network: Householdsp. 74
Echándole Ganas: Working Hardp. 80
A Little Extra: Robertop. 80
Extra Work, Flexible Workp. 84
A Hypothetical Day in the Work Life of an Il Vino Busboyp. 84
Learning the Ropes: Humor and Hazingp. 89
Working as a Teamp. 92
Covering and Criticizing: Protecting the Group and Enforcing the Normsp. 94
Why Work Hard? Dimensions of Willingnessp. 97
Consent and Contradictionp. 99
Los Número Uno: Identity, Dignity, and Esteemp. 102
They're Good People: Lalop. 102
Race, Class, and Illegality: Structural Dimensions of Mexican Immigrant Identityp. 105
Mojarones and Pacos: Race, Class, and Illegality at Il Vinop. 107
The Dignity of Hard Workp. 111
On the Margins of the "American Dream"p. 116
Gendered Identity and the Honor of Family Menp. 118
Illegals and Criminals: Racism, Nativism, and the Criminalization of Low-Wage Laborp. 124
We Wetbacks are People Who Like to Work: Leonardop. 124
Myths and Realitiesp. 126
Illegals and Criminalsp. 132
Toward an Anti-Nativist, Anti-Racist Perspective on Immigrationp. 135
Epiloguep. 137
Appendix: Interview Outline-Core Participantsp. 141
Student Resource Guidep. 145
Glossaryp. 149
References Citedp. 153
Indexp. 161
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