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Willing to Work: Agency and Vulnerability in an Undocumented Immigrant Network
American Anthropologist (2010)
  • Ruth Gomberg-Munoz, Loyola University Chicago

Restriction-oriented immigration policies and polarizing political debates have intensified the vulnera- bility of undocumented people in the United States, promoting their “willingness” to do low-wage, low-status work. In this article, I draw on ethnographic research with undocumented immigrants in Chicago to examine the everyday strategies that undocumented workers develop to mediate constraints and enhance their well-being. In particular, I explore how a cohort of undocumented Mexican immigrants cultivates a social identity as “hard workers” to promote their labor and bolster dignity and self-esteem. Much of the existing literature on unauthorized labor migration has focused on the structural conditions that encumber immigrants and constrain their opportunities. By shifting the focus to workers’ agency, I seek to complement these analyses and show how undocumented immigrants actively navigate the terrain of work and society in the United States.

  • undocumented labor,
  • agency,
  • labor migration,
  • Mexican workers,
  • service
Publication Date
Citation Information
Ruth Gomberg-Munoz. "Willing to Work: Agency and Vulnerability in an Undocumented Immigrant Network" American Anthropologist Vol. 112 Iss. 2 (2010)
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