Working Group on Labor & Migration

The Working Group on Labor, Immigration, and Changing Conceptions of Work explores the relations between the changing economy, changing meanings of work, and the changing labor force by addressing a central animating question: how does WHO does the work affect conceptions of work itself? The working group examines this topic by focusing on a particular type of work – “immigrant” work – and on a particular group of laborers: immigrant workers. The working group explores immigrant work and workers across a broad range of historical periods and localities as well as from multiple disciplinary perspectives and methodologies. Most generally, the working group addresses the theme of the humanities and the changing conceptions of work by highlighting the roles work and the workplace play in the quest for human dignity. Most recently, the working group convened a workshop on the theme of immigrant work, held at UC Santa Cruz on October 13, 2012. The working group is in the process of developing an interactive online space to facilitate on-going communication, as well as to serve as an online, publicly available repository for teaching, research, and educational materials concerning immigrant work.

Working Group Paticipants
Eva Bertram (Politics, UC Santa Cruz)
David Brundage (History, UC Santa Cruz)
Catherine Ceniza Choy (Ethnic Studies, Asian-American and Asian Diasporic Studies, UC Berkeley)
Dana Frank (History, UC Santa Cruz)
Evelyn Nakano Glenn (Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley)
Gilbert Gonzalez (Latin American Studies, Ethnic/Chicano Historical Studies, UC Irvine)
L.S. Kim (Film and Digital Media, UC Santa Cruz)
Steve McKay (Sociology, UC Santa Cruz)
Catherine Ramirez (Latin American and Latino Studies, UC Santa Cruz)
Mario Sifuentez (History, UC Merced)
Pat Zavella (Latin American and Latino Studies, UC Santa Cruz)

Graduate Research Assistant
Megan McNamara Abed (Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, UC Santa Cruz)

Resources for Teaching about Immigration and Work

Click here to read our working group’s recommended resources for teaching about labor, immigration, and changing conceptions of work.

Project Updates

Introducing the UCHRI Working Group: Changing Conceptions of Work

Posted on August 3, 2012

We are pleased to announce the formation of a new UC-wide working group: Immigrant Labor and Changing Conceptions of Work. The working group is sponsored by the UC Humanities Research Institute, and includes participants from a variety of disciplines and four UC campuses.

Work has long been a key source of human dignity, a central way we realize self-worth and respect. Yet even as we spend the bulk of our lives working, the rewards remain contradictory: while work can provide fulfillment and identity, it can also deliver stigma and alienation. The world of work has only become more complex given the contemporary juggernauts of technological change, globalization and economic restructuring. As these pressures disrupt old patterns of what work gets done and where, debates rage about the scope and meanings of such developments. While some argue that this “brave new world of work” creates new opportunities and paths of mobility for some, other caution that it ushers in greater risk and precarity.

However, often lost in the discussions of the changing workplace is the crucial role workers themselves play in the changing conceptions of work. As scholars of labor and labor markets remind us, the meaning of work and how it is valued cannot be divorced from those that perform it (Tilly and Tilly 1998). It is therefore important to take into account how group difference and inequality formed outside the workplace interact with meaning-making and divisions of labor at work. For example, in the US, women and racialized minorities were historically channeled into the least desirable jobs or even unfree labor, a process that reproduced their devalued social positions and overall inequality (Nakano Glenn 2002).

Our working group, consisting of scholars from the humanities, arts, and interpretive social sciences, will explore the relations between the changing structures and conditions of employment, the changing meanings and conceptions of work, and the changing labor force.

We will be holding a workshop at UC Santa Cruz on October 13. Please review the program for more information.


Inaugural Workshop – Working Group on Immigrant Labor and Changing Conceptions of Work

Posted on October 20, 2012

After months of planning and preparation, the UCHRI (UC Humanities Research Institute) Working Group on Immigrant Labor and Changing Conceptions of Work held its inaugural workshop at UC Santa Cruz on October 13, 2012. A full day of programming included the presentation of eight new texts (including one film) on ethical issues, labor processes, and new trends in immigrant labor.

Bringing together working group members from UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, and special resource scholars Rhacel Parrenas (University of Southern California) and Cindy Hahamovitch (College of William and Mary), workshop participants explored such diverse topics as the Bracero Program, wages and working conditions in a bagged lettuce plant, discourses of advocacy in immigrant rights organizations, and masculinities among Filipino seafarers. Click here to see the full program.

In the tradition of public scholarship, the working group will distribute a series of resources based on the workshop, including video recordings of the paper presentations and ensuing discussions, and various teaching materials on the topic of immigrant labor. We intend to have the first of these resources posted within a couple of weeks – please bookmark this page and check back for further!