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Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States

With a Foreword by Philippe Bourgois
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies
    Book Description:

    This book is an ethnographic witness to the everyday lives and suffering of Mexican migrants. Based on five years of research in the field (including berry-picking and traveling with migrants back and forth from Oaxaca up the West Coast), Holmes, an anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, uncovers how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. Holmes' material is visceral and powerful-for instance, he trekked with his informants illegally through the desert border into Arizona, where they were apprehended and jailed by the Border Patrol. After he was released from jail (and his companions were deported back to Mexico), Holmes interviewed Border Patrol agents, local residents, and armed vigilantes in the borderlands. He lived with indigenous Mexican families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the United States, planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals, participated in healing rituals, and mourned at funerals for friends. The result is a "thick description" that conveys the full measure of struggle, suffering, and resilience of these farmworkers.Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodiesweds the theoretical analysis of the anthropologist with the intimacy of the journalist to provide a compelling examination of structural and symbolic violence, medicalization, and the clinical gaze as they affect the experiences and perceptions of a vertical slice of indigenous Mexican migrant farmworkers, farm owners, doctors, and nurses. This reflexive, embodied anthropology deepens our theoretical understanding of the ways in which socially structured suffering comes to be perceived as normal and natural in society and in health care, especially through imputations of ethnic body difference. In the vehement debates on immigration reform and health reform, this book provides the necessary stories of real people and insights into our food system and health care system for us to move forward to fair policies and solutions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95479-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. FOREWORD The Symbolic Violence of Primitive Accumulation in the United States
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    The good doctor tells us, “Eat fresh fruit—lots of it!” You, the reader—the tiny fraction of the world’s population that has access to important critical and moving books, like this one by physician anthropologist Seth Holmes, are likely to take this healthy biopower dictate for granted. Most Americans who are not poor have learned to avoid the worst of the cheap, processed, and biologically engineered convenience foods saturated with sugar, salt, and fat (Moss 2013) that the global poor increasingly are condemned to eat because of transnational corporate domination of food markets. A few of the global privileged...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
    Seth M. Holmes
  6. ONE Introduction: “WORTH RISKING YOUR LIFE?”
    (pp. 1-29)

    It is early April and our group is leaving the Triqui village of San Miguel in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico,² each of us wearing dark-colored, long-sleeved clothes and carrying a small, dark-colored backpack with one change of clothes, a plastic bag with coyote fur and pine sap made by a Triqui healer for protection and called asuerte[luck], along with manytotopos[smoked, handmade tortillas] and dried beans to eat. I was instructed by Macario to bring these things. Each of us carries between $1,000 and $2,000 to pay for the bus ride to the border, for food...

    (pp. 30-44)

    The Triqui migrants and I are field workers. They harvest strawberries and blueberries in the fields of Washington State and grapes and asparagus in the fields of California year after year. My Triqui companions live far from their extended families and their native lands in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. They “dedicate everything to the fields” in the United States, their labor and skills, their energy and time, and their identities and reputations, as well as their minds and bodies. The time they might have spent learning in school is spent instead working in the fields to earn money to...

  8. THREE Segregation on the Farm: ETHNIC HIERARCHIES AT WORK
    (pp. 45-87)

    In fall 2002 I visited northwestern Washington State to explore the possibility of field research with migrant farmworkers in the area. Driving north from Seattle into the Skagit Valley, I was struck by the natural beauty of the landscape. The large Skagit River flows west from the snow-covered peaks of North Cascades National Park to the Pacific Ocean’s Puget Sound, pouring through some of the most scenic vistas in North America. The river is located roughly halfway between Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, about an hour and a half drive from each. The valley is made up of berry...

    (pp. 88-110)

    During both of my summers of fieldwork on the Tanaka Brothers Farm, I picked berries once or twice a week and experienced several forms of pain for days afterward. I often felt sick to my stomach the night before picking, due to stress about picking the minimum weight. As I picked, my knees continually hurt; I tried different positions, sometimes squatting, sometimes kneeling, sometimes propped up on just one knee. Each time I stood up to take my berries to be weighed, it felt as if a warm liquid like my own blood was running down my pants and into...

  10. FIVE “Doctors Don’t Know Anything”: THE CLINICAL GAZE IN MIGRANT HEALTH
    (pp. 111-154)

    When I first arrived in San Miguel, I attempted to explain to the officials atla presidencia(the town hall) my reasons for being there. I said that I was hoping to live in town for several months to learn about the everyday life and health of the residents. The official in charge of legal issues (el síndico) explained that there was nowhere to stay, no hotel or guest house, but that I could work in the Centro de Salud (government clinic) in town since it was short-staffed. San Miguel has a small, federally funded clinic staffed alternately by a...

  11. SIX “Because They’re Lower to the Ground”: NATURALIZING SOCIAL SUFFERING
    (pp. 155-181)

    “There are no migrants here; why are you looking here? I haven’t heard of any. If you want migrants, you’ll have to go to the other side of the mountains in eastern Washington. There are lots who pick apples around Yakima, I think. But there aren’t any over here.” A regional public health officer in Washington State advised me thus in fall 2002 as I explored the possibilities of ethnographic fieldwork in Skagit County.

    The Skagit Valley is an active node in the transnational circuits¹ of thousands of Mexican migrant laborers, including my Triqui companions from the Mexican state of...

    (pp. 182-198)

    Early in my fieldwork, I began to notice the segregation of workers in U.S. agriculture into a hierarchy of perceived ethnicity and citizenship. I observed economic inequalities and social hierarchies producing displacement, migration, sickness, and suffering, including among my Triqui companions Abelino, Crescencio, and Bernardo. As my fieldwork progressed, I became discouraged by what appeared to be a depressing situation without any possibility for change.

    I noticed several ways in which social and health inequalities had become considered normal, natural, and justified. Naturalization occurred via the racialization of bodies and the perception that certain categories of ethnic bodies belonged in...

  13. APPENDIX: On Ethnographic Writing and Contextual Knowledge (OR, WHY THIS BOOK HAS NO METHODS SECTION)
    (pp. 199-202)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 203-212)
  15. References
    (pp. 213-226)
  16. Index
    (pp. 227-234)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-236)