This dialogue serves as a forum for four authors of recent books on food politics to discuss their different approaches to analyzing immigrant workers' contested and changing roles in the U.S. food system. Bridging disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, and political science—and sites in the food industry ranging from poultry processing plants, slaughterhouses, and industrial agribusiness to organic farms—the authors address a consistent set of questions: What does the increase in immigrant workers in the food industry tell us about our food system, and how do immigration and labor policies facilitate employers' exploitation of all workers' vulnerabilities? What are viable models for change, and what role can scholars play in creating an ethic of responsible consumption that incorporates labor concerns? By contributing fresh perspectives on immigrants' hidden work in plants, slaughterhouses, and farms, the authors illuminate the factors that divide workers and obscure the human costs of how we make our food.
Immigrant Labor, Food Politics: A Dialogue between the Authors of Four Recent Books about the Food System
Margaret Gray is Associate Professor of Political Science at Adelphi University. Her book Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic (University of California Press, 2013), about New York farmworkers and food politics, won the Best Book Award from the Association for the Study of Food and Society and the Best Book Award from the Labor Project of the American Political Science Association.
Sarah B. Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of Colorado–Denver specializing in migrant health, immigration, and medical anthropology. Her book They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and “Illegality” among U.S. Farmworkers (University of California Press, 2016) examines the social and political production of death by heatstroke among farmworkers in California's Central Valley. More information, including the author's applied work on this topic, can be found at www.sarahbhorton.com/supplemental-information/.
Vanesa Ribas is Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department at University of California, San Diego. Her book On the Line: Slaughterhouse Lives and the Making of the New South (University of California Press, 2015) examines Latina/o migration to the American South, labor exploitation, and race relations in a large meatpacking plant. Other research has appeared in the American Sociological Review (with Neal Caren and Raj Ghoshal), Social Science and Medicine (with Janette Dill and Philip Cohen), Teaching Sociology (with Raj Ghoshal et al.), and Sociological Perspectives (with Raj Ghoshal).
Angela Stuesse is a cultural anthropologist at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill specializing in neoliberalism, migration, race, labor, social movements, and activist research. Her book Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South (University of California Press, 2016) explores how Latino migration has transformed the U.S. South and impacted efforts to organize for workplace justice in the poultry industry. Other recent work focuses on the policing, detention, and deportation of Latino communities in the South, with an emphasis on racialized effects and community responses.
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Margaret Gray, Sarah Horton, Vanesa Ribas, Angela Stuesse; Immigrant Labor, Food Politics: A Dialogue between the Authors of Four Recent Books about the Food System. Gastronomica 1 February 2017; 17 (1): 1–14. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2017.17.1.1
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