Life and Labor on the Border

Working People of Northeastern Sonora, Mexico, 1886–1986

Josiah Heyman (Author)
Ebooks (Open Access) Read Online
Paperback ($24.95) Buy
For thousands of Mexican laborers, life among the United States border represents an opportunity both to earn wages and to gain access to consumer goods; for anthropologist Josiah Heyman this labor force presents an opportunity to gain a better understanding of working people, "to uncover the order underlying the history of waged lives." 

Life and Labor on the Border traces the development of the urban working class in northern Sonora over the period of a century. Drawing on an extensive collection of life histories, Heyman describes what has happened to families over several generations as people have left the countryside to work for American-owned companies in northern Sonora or to cross the border to find other employment. 

Heyman searches for the origins of "working classness" in these family histories, revealing aspects of life that strengthen people' s involvement with a consumer economy, including the role of everyday objects like sewing machines, cars, and stoves. He considers the consequences of changing political and economic tides, and also the effects on family life of the new role of women in the labor force. Within the broad sweep of family chronicles, key junctures in individual lives—both personal and historical crises—offer additional insights into social class dynamics. 
Heyman's work dispels the notion that border inhabitants are uniformly impoverished or corrupted by proximity to the United States. These life stories instead convey the positive sense of people's goals in life and reveal the origins of a distinctive way of life in the Borderlands.
"Heyman's rich ethnography captures the historical continuity of the border working class. . . . A convincing and provocative work."—Contemporary Sociology

"Employing the finely grained modes of anthropoligcal inquiry, Heyman follows people on their paths into working class employment, and depicts for us the ways in which successive generations of families and friends responded to its changing options and constraints. His book constitutes a major achievement in both concepts and methods, and opens up new ways of comprehending the world we have made."—Eric Wolf, author of Sons of the Shaking Earth and Europe and the People Without History  
Life and Labor on the Border
264 Pages 6 x 9 Published: 2018 Paperback (9780816532780)
Ebooks (OA) (9780816537792)

For Authors

The University of Arizona Press publishes the work of leading scholars from around the globe. Learn more about submitting a proposal, preparing your final manuscript, and publication.



The University of Arizona Press is proud to share our books with readers, booksellers, media, librarians, scholars, and instructors. Join our email Newsletter. Request reprint licenses, information on subsidiary rights and translations, accessibility files, review copies, and desk and exam copies.


Support the Press

Support a premier publisher of academic, regional, and literary works. We are committed to sharing past, present, and future works that reflect the special strengths of the University of Arizona and support its land-grant mission.