Research Focus Group Talk: Border-Crossings at the Intersection of Narrated and Narrating Landscapes: Linguistic Brokers Witnessing and Enduring the U.S. Spatio-Temporal Politics of Migrant Worker Illegality in the American Heartland
This talk explores bilingual women’s social and narrative positioning as informal linguistic brokers (or community interpreters) in a rural town dependent on the industrial processing of fresh kosher meat-products. Specifically, it addresses how these women as “community accountants” employed reflexive interdiscursivity and oriented to different modernist chronotopes to re-analyze the cultural politics of migrant labor (Bakhtin 1981; See Chávez 2015; Dick 2010, 2017; Perrino 2011; Reynolds 2017). Their accounts shed insight into what happens when legal recognition of migrant labor is withheld/deferred and how this influences the chronic conditions of exhaustion and ambivalence that shape the social reproductive and linguistic labor necessary in supporting a diverse international migrant workforce in transnationally intertwined rural political economies (Povinelli 2011; McElhinny 2016). The study combines ethnography with poetic approaches to narrative dialogically produced through interviews. Analyses feature two contrasting case studies of native and foreign-born women and highlight how they grappled with maintaining and sustaining relationships that were socially fraught and required different kinds of border-crossing work to affectively identify with both migrant and native-born town residents.
Jennifer F. Reynolds is Professor of Anthropology and a faculty member in Linguistics and the Latin American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. She is a linguistic anthropologist who examines the relationship(s) between quotidian discourse practices and social and linguistic reproduction, with a focus on indigenous Guatemalans in transnational circuits of migration.
Sponsored by the IHC’s Language, Interaction, and Social Organization (LISO) Research Focus Group and the Mellichamp Global Dynamics Initiative