Synopses & Reviews
Lynn Stephenandrsquo;s innovative ethnography follows indigenous Mexicans from two towns in the state of Oaxacaandmdash;the Mixtec community of San Agustandiacute;n Atenango and the Zapotec community of Teotitlandaacute;n del Valleandmdash;who periodically leave their homes in Mexico for extended periods of work in California and Oregon. Demonstrating that the line separating Mexico and the United States is only one among the many borders that these migrants repeatedly cross (including national, regional, cultural, ethnic, and class borders and divisions), Stephen advocates an ethnographic framework focused on transborder, rather than transnational, lives. Yet she does not disregard the state: She assesses the impact migration has had on local systems of government in both Mexico and the United States as well as the abilities of states to police and affect transborder communities.
Stephen weaves the personal histories and narratives of indigenous transborder migrants together with explorations of the larger structures that affect their lives. Taking into account U.S. immigration policies and the demands of both commercial agriculture and the service sectors, she chronicles how migrants experience and remember low-wage work in agriculture, landscaping, and childcare and how gender relations in Oaxaca and the United States are reconfigured by migration. She looks at the ways that racial and ethnic hierarchies inherited from the colonial eraandmdash;hierarchies that debase Mexicoandrsquo;s indigenous groupsandmdash;are reproduced within heterogeneous Mexican populations in the United States. Stephen provides case studies of four grass-roots organizations in which Mixtec migrants are involved, and she considers specific uses of digital technology by transborder communities. Ultimately Stephen demonstrates that transborder migrants are reshaping notions of territory and politics by developing creative models of governance, education, and economic development as well as ways of maintaining their cultures and languages across geographic distances.
andldquo;Where most research on things andlsquo;transnationalandrsquo; is anchored on one side of the border or the other, Transborder Lives is conceptually and empirically well grounded throughout the geographic, national, social, political, and economic spaces within which its subjects are dispersed in both Mexico and the United States.andrdquo;andmdash;Michael Kearney, author of Changing Fields of Anthropology: From Local to Global
andldquo;Lynn Stephenandrsquo;s multisited ethnography insightfully unpacks globalization from below, revealing the contours of cross-border communities as they reweave the social fabrics of twenty-first-century North America.andrdquo;andmdash;Jonathan Fox, University of California, Santa Cruz
andldquo;Transborder Lives confirms Stephenandrsquo;s reputation as a leading contributor to North American transnational and migration studies. Stephenandrsquo;s nuanced, empatheticandmdash;and, I would add, physically and temporally demandingandmdash;ethnographic work undergirds the studyandrsquo;s elegantly narrated exploration of how indigenous Oaxacans articulate and understand their own individual and collective experiences of daily routines. . .andrdquo;
andldquo;[Transborder Lives] is a must-read for anyone interested in indigenous migration to the United States, Oaxacan studies, political economy, the construction of race and ethnicity in a bi-national context, indigenous knowledges, and transborder studies writ large. And its clear prose makes it accessible to undergraduates as well as non-academics interested in policy studies. Certainly, for members of communities such as those described by Stephen, the book will be cherished as a historical and ethnographic document.andrdquo;
andldquo;[Stephenandrsquo;s] contribution to the literature on transnational migrants lies in the concept of transborder existence and drawing our attention to the myriads of borders, geographic as well as sociocultural, that many Mexicans cross. Their movement within Mexico, the United States, and the U.S.-Mexico border requires that they not only transcend gender, racial, ethnic, class, and state borders but also form collective efforts, interlinked networks, and transborder identities. Ultimately, her analysis moves beyond identities and relations defined by any one nation-stateandmdash;Mexico or the United Statesandmdash;to the multiple ways people are read physically, legally, and otherwise.andrdquo;
andldquo;Stephen certainly knows her stuff. . . . The real intimacy and trust she shares with her respondents and her rich understanding of their lives come across powerfully in her frank conversations. Her commitment to telling migrantsandrsquo; stories and to using social science to promote social change is also clear. . . . This book is valuable for many reasons. . . . Transborder Lives also does an excellent job of placing migration dynamics within the context of broader political-economic factors on both sides of the border and analyzing how these have changed over time.andrdquo;
Explores how two populations of indigenous Mexican migrants are using their multi-layered identities and bi-national labor experiences to organize for economic and political change.
About the Author
Lynn Stephen is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Zapotec Women: Gender, Class, and Ethnicity in Globalized Oaxaca, also published by Duke University Press; Zapata Lives! Histories and Cultural Politics in Southern Mexico; and Women and Social Movements in Latin America: Power from Below.
Table of Contents
Illustrations and Tables vii
1. Approaches to Transborder Lives 1
2. Transborder Communities in Political and Historical Context: Views from Oaxaca 35
3. Mexicans in California and Oregon 63
4. Transborder Labor Lives: Harvesting, Housecleaning, Gardening, and Childcare 95
5. Surveillance and Invisibility in the Lives of Indigenous Farmworkers in Oregon 143
6. Womenandrsquo;s Transborder Lives: Gender Relations in Work and Families 178
7. Navigating the Borders of Racial and Ethnic Hierarchies 209
8. Grassroots Organizing in Transborder Lives 231
9. Transborder Ethnic Identity Construction in Life and on the Net: E-Mail and Web Page Construction and Use 274
Epilogue: Notes on Collaborative Research 321
Works Cited 335