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Life and Labor on the Border
Working People of Northeastern Sonora, Mexico, 1886–1986
By Josiah Heyman
264 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / 1991
Paper (978-0-8165-3278-0) [s]
  
Series
  - Century Collection

Related Interest
  - Borderlands Studies
  - Latina and Latino Studies


For thousands of Mexican laborers, life among the United States border represents an opportunity both to earn wages and to gain access to consumer goods; for anthropologist Josiah Heyman this labor
Heyman's rich ethnography captures the historical continuity of the border working class. . . . A convincing and provocative work.

—Contemporary Sociology

Employing the finely grained modes of anthropoligcal inquiry, Heyman follows people on their paths into working class employment, and depicts for us the ways in which successive generations of families and friends responded to its changing options and constraints. His book constitutes a major achievement in both concepts and methods, and opens up new ways of comprehending the world we have made.

—Eric Wolf, author of Sons of the Shaking Earth and Europe and the People Without History

force presents an opportunity to gain a better understanding of working people, "to uncover the order underlying the history of waged lives."

Life and Labor on the Border traces the development over the past hundred years of urban working class in northern Sonora. Drawing on an extensive collection of life histories, Heyman describes what has happened to families over several generations as people have left the countryside to work for American-owned companies in northern Sonora or to cross the border to find other employment.

Heyman searches for the origins of "working classness" in these family histories, revealing aspects of life that strengthen people' s involvement with a consumer economy, including the role of everyday objects like sewing machines, cars, and stoves. He considers the consequences of changing political and economic tides, and also the effects on family life of the new role of women in the labor force. Within the broad sweep of family chronicles, key junctures in individual lives—both personal and historical crises—offer additional insights into social class dynamics.

Heyman's work dispels the notion that border inhabitants are uniformly impoverished or corrupted by proximity to the United States. These life stories instead convey the positive sense of people's goals in life and reveal the origins of a distinctive way of life in the Borderlands.


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