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Labor and Legality

An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network, 10th Anniversary Edition

Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz

Publication Date - 29 November 2019

ISBN: 9780190076474

192 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

The Tenth Anniversary Edition of this brief, engaging ethnography on undocumented Mexican workers in America engages contemporary debates on immigration policy


Labor and Legality: An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network, Tenth Anniversary Edition, is an ethnography of undocumented immigrants who work as busboys at a Chicago-area restaurant. Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz introduces readers to the Lions, ten friends from Mexico committed to improving their fortunes and the lives of their families. Set in and around "Il Vino," a restaurant that could stand in for many places that employ undocumented workers, The Tenth Anniversary Edition of Labor and Legality reveals the faces behind the war being waged over "illegal immigrants" in America. Gomberg-Muñoz focuses on how undocumented workers develop a wide range of social strategies to cultivate financial security, nurture emotional well-being, and promote their dignity and self-esteem. She also reviews the political and historical circumstances of undocumented migration, with an emphasis on post-1970 socioeconomic and political conditions in the United States and Mexico.

Labor and Legality, Tenth Anniversary Edition, is one of many volumes in the series ISSUES OF GLOBALIZATION: CASE STUDIES IN CONTEMPORARY ANTHROPOLOGY, which introduces key concepts and theories of globalization through rich and compelling ethnography. It offers new research through case studies in a style and format appropriate for both students and scholars of Anthropology and related fields. Each volume offers a brief and engaging exploration of a particular issue arising from globalization and its cultural, political, and economic effects on certain peoples or groups.

New to this Edition

  • Provides new data through new interviews
  • Updates policy discussions, including the introduction of material on DACA
  • Incorporates newer and more explicit theory, especially in relation to inequality and research practices

About the Author(s)

Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Loyola University Chicago.


"I am excited to teach immigration again because students will read and discuss the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Labor and Legality. My students--who are mostly immigrants or the children of immigrants--see themselves and their family members in the stories recounted in this book. Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz does an excellent job of weaving the stories of undocumented workers with a critical analysis of labor laws, immigration policies, and the history of Mexican migration to the United States."--Tanya Golash-Boza, University of California, Merced

"Through careful and compassionate ethnography, Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz moves beyond one-dimensional representations of undocumented people to reveal the humanity of those struggling to improve their own lives and those of their families. With this revised edition, Gomberg-Muñoz revisits a social problem that, far from being resolved, has become more dire since initial publication of Labor and Legality."--Aaron Thornburg, Eastern Oregon University

"As legacies of the U.S. in Latin America continue to play out demographically and culturally, and amid unsubstantiated assertions and policies that are damaging to many families and large sectors of communities, books like Labor and Legality are essential. This text humanizes public and policy discourse by acknowledging people as indispensable to communities, as well as to countries, which out of necessity may be more than a single place for living and connecting."--James Loukcy, Western Washington University

Table of Contents

    Preface for the Tenth Anniversary Edition

    Chapter One: Meet the Lions
    A Dog's Life: Luis
    I Want Respect at My Job: René
    Meet the Lions
    Il Vino Buono
    What Does a Busboy Do?
    How Do the Lions Compare to Other Groups of Workers?

    Chapter Two: Why Is There Undocumented Migration?
    Papa Juan's Story
    A History of Mexican Labor Migration to the United States
    The Beginnings of Borders in North America
    The Seeds of Globalization: Development and Migration
    The Roots Take Hold: The Breadbasket and the Bracero Program
    Reaping the Harvest: The Political Production of "Illegal Immigration"
    Politics of Marginalization
    Politics of Labor Reproduction

    Chapter Three: Jumping and Adjusting to Life Under the Radar
    Migration: Chuy's Story
    Life in León
    Family Strategies
    The Price of Crossing
    Life Under the Radar: Papers
    Life Under the Radar: Getting Adjusted
    Changing Ideas of Home: Return Migration and Return-Return Migration

    Chapter Four: Múy Unidos: Friends, Networks, and Households
    Having Friends Makes Things Easier: Alejandro
    Utilizing a Social Network: Finding Work
    Money and Respect: Assessing Jobs and Bosses
    Getting Paid and Managing Money
    Utilizing a Social Network: Households

    Chapter Five: Echándole Ganas: Working Hard
    A Little Extra: Roberto
    Extra Work, Flexible Work
    A Hypothetical Day in the Work Life of an Il Vino Busboy
    Learning the Ropes: Humor and Hazing
    Working as a Team
    Covering and Criticizing: Protecting the Group and Enforcing the Norms
    Why Work Hard? Dimensions of Willingness
    Consent and Contradiction

    Chapter Six: Los Número Uno: Identity, Dignity, and Esteem
    They're Good People: Lalo
    Race, Class, and Illegality: Structural Dimensions of Mexican Immigrant Identity
    Mojarones and Pacos: Race, Class, and Illegality at Il Vino
    The Dignity of Hard Work
    On the Margins of the "American Dream"
    Gendered Identity and the Honor of Family Men

    Chapter Seven: Moving Forward
    All You Have to Offer is that You Are a Good Worker: Leonardo
    Myths and Realities
    Moving Forward

    Epilogue for 10th Anniversary Edition: The Lions, 10 Years Later

    Appendix: Immigrant Rights Organizations
    Appendix: Interview Outline-Core Participants
    Student Resource Guide
    References Cited

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