Images of work, images of defiance: engaging migrant farm worker voice through community-based arts

Abstract

This article addresses a stated need within the food justice movement scholarship to increase the attention paid to the political socialization of hired farm hands in industrial agriculture. In Canada, tackling the problem of farm worker equity has particular social and political contours related to the Canadian horticultural industry’s reliance on a state-managed migrant agricultural labour program designed to fill the sector’s labour market demands. As Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) produces relations of ‘unfree labour’, engaging migrant farm workers in social movement initiatives can be particularly challenging. Critical educational interventions designed to encourage migrant farm workers’ contribution to contemporary social movements in Canada must therefore confront the socio-cultural obstacles that constrict migrant farm workers’ opportunities to participate as full members of their communities. In this article, I argue that social justice oriented approaches to community-based arts can provide a means for increasing the social movement contributions of farm workers employed through managed labour migration schema such as Canada’s SAWP.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    I provided workshop participants with pseudonyms.

  2. 2.

    Worker quotes have been translated to English from the original Spanish.

Abbreviations

SAWP:

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program

References

  1. Allen, P. 2008. Mining for justice in the food system: Perceptions, practices, and possibilities. Agriculture and Human Values 25(2): 157–161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bakan, A. B. 2008. Reconsidering the underground railroad: Slavery and racialization in the making of the Canadian state. Socialist Studies 4(1): 3–29.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Barak, A. 2016. Critical consciousness in critical social work: Learning from the Theatre of the Oppressed. British Journal of Social Work 6(1): 1776–1792.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Basok, T. 2002. Tortillas and tomatoes: transmigrant Mexican harvesters in Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Basok, T., D. Bélanger, and E. Rivas. 2014. Reproducing deportability: Migrant agricultural workers in South-western Ontario. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 40(9): 1394–1413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bauder, H. 2008. Foreign farm workers in Ontario (Canada): Exclusionary discourse in the newsprint media. Journal of Peasant Studies 35(1): 100–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Boal, A. 1985. Theatre of the oppressed. New York: Theatre Communications Group.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Boal, A. 2002. Games for actors and non-actors. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Brookfield, S., and J. Holst. 2010. Radicalizing learning: Adult education for a just world. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Butterwick, S., and C. Roy. 2016. Working the margins of community-based adult learning. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Butterwick, S., M. Carrillo, and K. Villagente. 2015. Women’s fashion shows as feminist transformation. The Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education 27(2): 79–99.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Choudry, A. 2015. Learning activism: The intellectual life of contemporary social movements. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Choudry, A., and A. Smith. 2016a. Introduction: Struggling against unfree labour. In Unfree labour? Struggles of migrant and immigrant workers in Canada, eds. A. Choudry, and A. Smith, 1–20. Oakland: PM Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Choudry, A., and A. Smith, eds. 2016b. Unfree labour? Struggles of migrant and immigrant workers in Canada. Oakland: PM Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Conquergood, D. 1985. Performance as moral act: Ethical dimensions of ethnography of performance. Literature in Performance 5(2): 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. De Genova, N. 2005. Working the boundaries: Race, space, and “illegality” in Mexican Chicago. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. De Lissovoy, N. 2015. Education and emancipation in the neoliberal era: Being, teaching, and power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  18. De Lissovoy, N. 2016. Race, reason and reasonableness: Toward an “unreasonable” pedagogy. Educational Studies 52(4): 346–362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Denzin, N. K. 2003. Performance ethnography: Critical pedagogy and the politics of culture. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Ekers, M., C. Z. Levkoe, S. Walker, and B. Dale. 2016. Will work for food: Agricultural interns, apprentices, volunteers, and the agrarian question. Agriculture and Human Values 33(3): 705–720.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fanon, F. 2008. [1952] Black skin, white masks. New York: Grove Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Feagan, R. 2007. The place of food: Mapping out the “local” in local food systems. Progress in Human Geography 31(1): 23–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Flores, J., and S. Garcia. 2009. Latina testimonios: A reflexive, critical analysis of ‘Latina space’ at a predominantly White campus. Race, Ethnicity and Education 12(2): 155–172.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Foucault, M. 1980. Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings 1972–1977. New York: Pantheon Books.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Fraser, N. 1997. Justice interruptus: Critical reflections on the ‘postsocialist’ condition. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Fraser, N. 2013. Fortunes of feminism: From state-managed capitalism to neoliberal crisis. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gottlieb, R., and A. Joshi. 2010. Food justice. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Gouge, M. C. 2015. Human rights in play, transnational solidarity at work: Creative playfulness and subversive storytelling among the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Critical Sociology 42(6): 861–875.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Government of Canada. 2018. Annual labour market impact assessment statistics 2008–2015 by urban area. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/foreign-workers/reports/2014/lmia-annual-statistics/urban-area.html. Accessed 10 March 2018.

  30. Gray, M. 2014. Labor and the locavore: The making of a comprehensive food ethic. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Hammond, J. L. 2014. Mística, meaning and popular education in the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement. Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements 6(1): 372–391.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Hill, S. 2005. Migrant workers take to stage. Windsor Star, August 19.

  33. Hjalmarson, E., R. Bunn, A. Cohen, E. Terbasket, and L. Gahman. 2015. Race, food, and borders: Situating migrant struggle in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 5(4): 77–82.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Hsia, Hsiao-Chuan. 2010. The subjectivation of marriage migrants in Taiwan: The insiders’ perspectives. In Learning from the ground up: Global perspectives on social movements and knowledge production, eds. A. Choudry, and D. Kapoor, 101–120. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Issa, D. 2007. Praxis of empowerment: Mística and mobilization in Brazil’s landless rural workers’ movement. Latin American Perspectives 34(2): 124–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Justicia for Migrant Workers. 2017. Harvesting freedom. https://harvestingfreedom.org/. Accessed 24 Oct 2017.

  37. Kohl-Arenas, E., M. M. Nateras, and J. Taylor. 2014. Cultural organizing as critical praxis: Tamejavi builds immigrant voice, belonging, and power. Journal of Poverty 18(1): 5–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Law, J., and J. Urry. 2004. Enacting the social. Economy and Society 33(3): 390–410.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Lebaron, G. 2015. Unfree labour beyond binaries: Insecurity, social hierarcy and labour market restructuring. International Feminist Journal of Politics 17(1): 1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Levkoe. 2017. Engaging the tensions of ecological internships: Considerations for agroecology and sustainable food systems movements. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2017.1347120.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Levkoe, C. Z., N. McClintock, L.-A. Minkoff-Zern, A. K. Coplen, J. Gaddis, J. Lo, and A. M. Weiler. 2016. Forging links between food chain labor activists and academics. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 6(2): 129–142.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Liang, P. 2016. Interweaving ethics and aesthetics: Marriage migrants and theatre making in the Asian transnational space. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 17(3): 334–356.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Mienczakowski, J. 1999. Ethnography in the hands of participants: Tools for dramatic discovery. In Explorations of methodology, eds. G. Walford, and A. Massey, 145–161. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Minkoff-Zern, L.-A. 2014. Challenging the agrarian imaginary: Farmworker-led food movements and the potential for farm labor justice. Human Geography 7(1): 85–101.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Nakache, D., and P. J. Kinoshita. 2010. The Canadian temporary foreign worker program: Do short term economic needs prevail over human rights concerns? Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Newman, M. 2006. Teaching defiance: Stories and strategies for adult educators. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Perry, J. A. 2012a. A silent revolution: ‘Image theatre’ as a system of decolonization. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 17(1): 103–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Perry, J. A. 2012b. Barely legal: Racism and migrant farm labour in the context of Canadian multiculturalism. Citizenship Studies 16(2): 189–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Perry, J. A. 2013. Living and learning through solidarity and struggle: Assessing the informal learning of Frontier College labourer-teachers. In Volunteer work, informal learning and social action, eds. F. Duguid, K. Mündel, and D. Schugurensky, 79–99. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Perry, J. A. 2018. Play-making with migrant farm workers in Ontario, Canada: A kinesthetic and embodied approach to qualitative research. Qualitative Research. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794117743463.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Preibisch, K. 2010. Pick-your-own labor: Migrant workers and flexibility in Canadian agriculture. International Migration Review 44(2): 404–441.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Preibisch, K. 2012. Migrant workers and changing work-place regimes in contemporary agricultural production in Canada. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 19(1): 62–82.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Ramsaroop, C. 2016. The case for unemployment insurance benefits for migrant agricultural workers in Canada. In Unfree labour? Struggles of migrant and immigrant workers in Canada, eds. A. Choudry, and A. Smith, 105–122. Oakland: PM Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Reid-Musson, E. 2017. Intersectional rhythmanalysis: Power, rhythm, and everyday life. Progress in Human Geography. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132517725069.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Rogaly, B. 2009. Spaces of work and everyday life: Labour geographies and the agency of unorganized temporary migrant workers. Geography Compass 3: 1975–1987.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Sachs, C., P. Allen, A. R. Terman, J. Hayden, and C. Hatcher. 2014. Front and back of the house: Socio-spatial inequalities in food work. Agriculture and Human Values 31(3): 3–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Satzewich, V. 1991. Racism and the incorporation of foreign labour: Farm labour migration to Canada since 1945. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Schutzman, M., and J. Cohen-Cruz, eds. 1994. Playing boal: Theatre, therapy, activism. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Sharma, N. 2006. Home economics: Nationalism in the making of “migrant workers” in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Sharma, N. 2012. The “difference” that borders make: “Temporary foreign workers” and the social organization of unfreedom in Canada. In Legislated inequality: Temporary labour migration in Canada, eds. P. T. Lenard, and C. Straehle, 26–47. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Sinding, C., R. Gray, and J. Nisker. 2008. Ethical issues and issues of ethics. In Handbook of the arts in qualitative research, eds. J. G. Knowles, and A. L. Cole, 459–468. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Skrivankova, K. 2010. Between decent work and forced labour: Examining the continuum of exploitation. New York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Smith, A. 2016. Migration, development and security within racialised global capitalism: Refusing the balance game. Third World Quarterly 37(11): 2119–2138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Strauss, K. 2012. Coerced, forced and unfree labour: Geographies of exploitation in contemporary labour markets. Geography Compass 6(3): 137–148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Thomas, M. 2016. Producing and contesting “unfree labour” through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. In Unfree labour? Struggles of migrant and immigrant workers in Canada, eds. A. Choudry, and A. Smith, 21–36. Oakland: PM Press.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Vosko, L. F. 2016. Blacklisting as a modality of deportability: Mexico’s response to circular migrant agricultural workers’ pursuit of collective bargaining rights in British Columbia, Canada. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42(8): 1371–1387.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Weiler, A., C. Levkoe, and C. Young. 2016. Cultivating equitable ground: Community-based participatory research to connect food movements with migrant farmworkers. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 6(2): 73–87.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of the three anonymous reviewers during the preparation of this manuscript. The funding was supported by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant No. 752-2011-2626).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Adam Perry.

Ethics declarations

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Toronto and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Perry, J.A. Images of work, images of defiance: engaging migrant farm worker voice through community-based arts. Agric Hum Values 36, 627–640 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-018-9861-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Migrant farm workers
  • Theatre of the Oppressed
  • Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program
  • Guest worker programs
  • Unfree labour
  • Canada