Visible Farmers/Invisible Workers: Locating Immigrant Labor in Food Studies

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Abstract:

The Jeffersonian narratives about food and farming that dominate the food movement in the United States too often obscure immigrants' crucial role in US food production. This paper examines the narrative strategies that reveal and obscure immigrant workers' connections to food by analyzing two popular texts about food and farming: Michael Pollan's non-fictional The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006) and Helena MarĂ­a Viramontes's novel Under the Feet of Jesus (1995). Pollan's focus on the relationship between farm and fork often erases workers' visibility in the systems he describes. Viramontes's novel offers a useful corrective as the text imagines the lives of farm workers, emphasizing the workers' humanity to oppose the criminalization of farm workers. Reading the two works side-by-side suggests the limitations of a contemporary food movement oriented too heavily towards the consumer and asserts the possibilities of a food justice movement emphasizing workers' and immigrants' rights.

Keywords: FARM WORKERS; FOOD MOVEMENT; IMMIGRATION; LABOR

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175174411X13046092851479

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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