I’m Neither Here nor There explores how immigration influences the construction of family, identity, and community among Mexican Americans and migrants from Mexico. Based on long-term ethnographic research, Patricia Zavella describes how poor and working-class Mexican Americans and migrants to California’s central coast struggle for agency amid the region’s deteriorating economic conditions and the rise of racial nativism in the United States. Zavella also examines tensions within the Mexican diaspora based on differences in legal status, generation, gender, sexuality, and language. She proposes “peripheral vision” to describe the sense of displacement and instability felt by Mexican Americans and Mexicans who migrate to the United States as well as by their family members in Mexico.
Drawing on close interactions with Mexicans on both sides of the border, Zavella examines migrant journeys to and within the United States, gendered racialization, and exploitation at workplaces, and the challenges that migrants face in forming and maintaining families. As she demonstrates, the desires of migrants to express their identities publicly and to establish a sense of cultural memory are realized partly through Latin American and Chicano protest music, and Mexican and indigenous folks songs played by musicians and cultural activists.
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Patricia Zavella is Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Women’s Work and Chicano Families: Cannery Workers of the Santa Clara Valley and a co-author of Sunbelt Working Mothers: Reconciling Family and Factory. Zavella is a co-editor of Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader, Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios, and Women and Migration in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: A Reader all also published by Duke University Press.Review:
“I’m Neither Here nor There is a powerful, highly original ethnography about the complexities of the Mexican migrant and Mexican American population in the United States. By drawing primarily on work by scholars of color about people of color, Patricia Zavella decenters staid ways of understanding immigration, such as assimilation and the underclass models. Her use of the concepts of peripheral vision, double vision, and border thinking are particularly effective, as is her political-economic analysis of capitalism and neoliberalism in Santa Cruz County, California, and the poverty and challenges that they create for the area’s working poor.”—Lynn Stephen, author of Transborder Lives: Indigenous Oaxacans in Mexico, California, and Oregon
“Among the most original and important contributions of I’m Neither Here nor There are: its focus on one California region, which helps us to see that migrants do not come to an undifferentiated ‘United States,’ but rather to specific locations with distinct regional economic and social dynamics; its sensitivity to gender and sexuality as key sites where social change gets registered in the lives of individuals; and its brilliant discussions of the popular music of Los Tigres del Norte, Quetzal, and Lila Downs as repositories of collective memory, sites of moral instruction, and mechanisms for calling old and new communities into being through performance. Patricia Zavella also makes clear the causes and consequences of residential density and overcrowding in immigrant communities, surely one of the most important but least understood features of contemporary immigrant life. I’m Neither Here nor There is an outstanding work that will be welcomed by specialists as well as general readers. It makes unique and valuable contributions to scholarship and civic life and presents an exemplary model of sophisticated and socially engaged research.”—George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place
“This is the way ethnography should be written: with stories that entice, analysis that dazzles, and just the right mix of humor, music, and in-your-face dignidad. Border and migration studies will never be the same after Patricia Zavella’s impassioned new book, I’m Neither Here nor There.”—Matthew Gutmann, Brown University
“The breadth of Patricia Zavella’s I’m Neither Here Nor There is staggering.... It is undeniable that Zavella is a rigorous, experienced, and sophisticated ethnographer who has made a monumental and original contribution with I’m Neither Here Nor There.... [It] amplifies the words of marginalized people who 'cannot shout' (p. xii) yet justifiably 'eel entitled to dignity in exchange for their labor'(p. xi).” (Chad Broughton American Journal of Sociology)
“With detail and sensitivity, Zavella illustrates how changing gender roles and generational expectations are affecting and transforming Mexican diaspora communities as migrants create inventive strategies for survival.... Theoretically sophisticated yet written in an accessible style, this book is especially apropos for graduate courses dealing with themes of globalization, immigration, transnationalism, and border life and is also recommended for general readers interested in these themes.” (Regina Marchi American Ethnologist)
“I’m Neither Here nor There is a compelling examination of structures of difference, of becoming and belonging, and of forms of border thinking that map spatio-conceptual cosmos and the human integuments that hold them together through ‘transcommunal subjectivity.’... If only every book were as intellectually productive, ethically inspiring, and politically compelling.” (Scott Catey North American Dialogues)
“Zavella’s book is an important read for scholars of migration, transnationalism, citizenship, and political economy, as well as those whose work engages gender, sexuality and race. While set in the US, Zavella’s conceptual frame and analysis can be a useful tool for Canadian scholars, particularly those working in the areas of migrant integration, immigration status and radicalized poverty.” (Paloma E. Villegas Labour/Le Travail)
“Patricia Zavella’s timely I’m Neither Here Nor There serves as an example of a broadly accessible approach to the study of the working poor. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in central California, Zavella analyses the daily challenges encountered by Santa Cruz County’s Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans, with an eye towards issues of family, gender, sexuality and legal status.” (Angela S. García Ethnic and Racial Studies)
“I’m Neither Here nor There by Patricia Zavella is impassioned, nuanced, powerful, and politically compelling. Above all, it is stunningly comprehensive in a way that only a senior scholar who has wrestled with her own research and chewed on existing scholarship for years can deliver. In one way or another, I’m Neither Here nor There addresses virtually every issue facing migrants in the U.S. and does so with remarkable sophistication.” (Steve Striffler International Migration Review)
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