Friday, June 14, 2013
From the Bookshelves: Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies Migrant Farmworkers in the United States by Seth Holmes and Immigration, Civilization, and America By Alvaro Vargas Llosa
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 Bodies weds 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.
The recent reawakening of the debate about immigration in the new millennium has evoked intense emotion particularly in the United States and Europe. To what degree are foreigners culturally different? Can immigrants assimilate into the new society? How have recessions and times of prosperity influenced—more significantly than government efforts—the number of immigrants coming into the United States and other countries? Renowned author Alvaro Vargas Llosa answers these questions and more in this compelling new book about our immigration nation. Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America cuts through the jungle of myth, falsehood and misrepresentation that dominates the debate, clarifying the causes and consequences of this great American tradition. Alvaro Vargas Llosa finds that immigration’s contributions to an economy far outweigh the costs.
Alvaro Vargas Llosa is a Senior Fellow of The Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute.