The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book American Guestworkers

American Guestworkers

Jamaicans and Mexicans in the U.S. Labor Market David Griffith
  • Publish Date: 10/18/2007
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 256 pages
  • Illustrations: 4 maps
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-02949-8
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03188-0
  • Series Name: Rural Studies
“Unlike the pundits who debate immigration policy within the context of border security or labor markets, David Griffith focuses on the history and evolution of the H-2 program, examining the efficacy of actual guestworker policies and their effects on migrant workers. The value of American Guestworkers lies in the author’s argument that local history can influence global processes. Throughout the book, Griffith proves his point by moving effortlessly between analysis of the local and national issues related to the H-2 program.”
“Anthropologist Griffith has written a historical, informational, and gripping ethnographic account of Jamaicans and Mexicans in the U.S. labor market, focusing on sectors such as sugar in Florida for Jamaicans and crab picking and tobacco in North Carolina for Mexicans.”
“I highly recommend this book to scholars, policymakers, and social activists who ponder the issues of temporary migration.”
“This review does not do justice to the breadth of the analysis that Griffith provides. It is a dense but clearly written exploration of complex processes that bring migrants to the United States. Migration today cannot be understood by focusing narrowly on a single migrant group, employer, or industry. This book should be read by pundits and politicians who believe building walls will keep migrants from crossing the border.”

The H-2 program, originally based in Florida, is the longest running labor-importation program in the country. Over the course of a quarter-century of research, Griffith studied rural labor processes and their national and international effects. In this book, he examines the socioeconomic effects of the H-2 program on both the areas where the laborers work and the areas they are from, and, taking a uniquely humanitarian stance, he considers the effects of the program on the laborers themselves.

David Griffith is Professor of Anthropology at East Carolina University. He is also the author of The Estuary's Gift: An Atlantic Coast Biography (Penn State, 1999).




Part I: Out of Florida

Introduction: In the State with the Prettiest Name

1. Alleged Shortages at Home, Certain Surpluses Abroad: North American Temporary Worker Programs

2. Occupations Abandoned, Workers Displaced: Seasonal Labor Before and After H-2

Part II: Jamaican Experiences, 1981–2001

3. From Beauty to Truth

4. Aspects of the Machete

5. Guests as Hosts: Jamaicans in the Tourist Industry

Part III: Mexican Experiences, 1988–2003

6. When Owls Die, Ellos Nos Hierieron

7. Bodies on Hold: Gender and H-2

Conclusion: Lasting Firsts



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