Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arts and Sciences
Dr. Patrick Mooney
The goal of this three-paper dissertation is to better understand inequalities that Latinx farmworkers endure and the ways through which these inequalities can be addressed. As such, this dissertation examines pertinent inequalities Latinx farmworkers experience in the United States, their responses to resulting hardships, and the effects that crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic have in both exacerbating hardship and expanding opportunities to challenge inequitable systems in place. This is done through an intersectional analysis of a multi-year ethnographic study conducted in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
First, paper one, titled, “Subordinate Adaptation: Intragroup Hierarchies Among Blueberry Pickers,” explores the ways in which farmworkers working piece-rate adapt to their economic precarity under racist/racialized agricultural systems. Accordingly, findings indicate subordinate adaptation among blueberry pickers who create localized hierarchies among themselves, influenced by their marginality. These hierarchies allow farmworkers to take pride in their conditions, reframing their need to be productive as an ability to be productive. This is understood through racial terms. Unfortunately, however, these adaptations do not protect farmworkers from greater social inequalities as shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following, paper two, titled, “Inequality Regimes: The Intersecting Inequalities Women Experience in Oregon’s Seasonal Agriculture,” identifies key mechanisms through which gender inequality it reproduced in Oregon’s seasonal crop agriculture. Mechanisms include differential employment opportunities, positions, and job security as well as a lack of facilities, resources, and protections for women. Importantly, analyzing the processes behind the reproduction of gender inequality helps illustrate the compounded hardships that women in agriculture face, especially during crises. In doing so, paper two highlights the importance of recognizing how gender inequality intersects with other systems of oppression to further affect historically marginalized women.
Lastly, paper three, titled, “Logics of Transformation: Strategic Action in the Struggle for Farmworker Wellbeing,” takes a meso-level approach to examine modes of strategic action among community organizations responding to farmworker inequality, especially during crises. The study finds that community organizations commonly work with the state to address both immediate farmworker need and long-term farmworker interests. But while state agencies willingly collaborate with community organizations to address symptoms of inequality, the state is much more reluctant to change inequitable systems in place. This is because such change goes against capitalist agricultural interests. As such, the power and positioning of different social actors and potential opportunities for
strategic action moving forward are considered. Ultimately, this dissertation encourages its readers to join the struggle in tackling systemic inequality and creating a more just world for Latinx farmworkers in the United States.
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This research was supported by:
- Center for Equality and Social Justice, Graduate Student Research Fellowship, University of Kentucky, 2020
- College of Social Sciences Dean’s Competitive Fellowship, University of Kentucky, 2020
- Lexington Herald-Leader Graduate Fellowship, University of Kentucky, 2020
- Lyman T. Johnson Diversity Fellowship, University of Kentucky, 2022
Alejandrez, Kevin, "The Conditions of Oregon's Latinx Farmworkers" (2023). Theses and Dissertations--Sociology. 55.