INTRODUCTION
WORKING THE BOUNDARIES
This is a book about the laborious condition of working men and women,
and about the borders and boundaries that have meaningfully framed
their lives and labors, but above all, it is about the everyday struggles that
go into producing those boundaries. It is not a book that pretends to be a
complete or comprehensive scientific account of fixed and finally know-
able objective truths. Although it is very much a book about social real-
ities, it is less about how a thing called society really is than about how
social life comes to appear so thinglike, and about how people immersed
in those processes seek to make sense of them. In other words, this book is
about the inherently contradictory messiness of ongoing social dynamics
and conflict, and the always unresolved processes of social becoming and
transformation. It takes as its fundamental starting point the premise that
‘‘things’’ could have been di√erent, and that nothing has to remain as it
presently appears. Thus, this is a book about how specific people in a
particular place have inherited the manifold consequences of a complex
history but also have been and continue to be vital participants in the
making of that history and their distinct location within it, in a manner
that necessarily leaves them ultimately situated at the center of an open-
ended historicity. Therefore, this book is more about questions than
conclusions, and the critical formulation of problems that ought to be
even more vexing by the end of the book than they were when it began. In
this sense, this is a book not only about the ways that the significant
boundaries that define social life get elaborated in everyday practice, but
also about working and reworking the boundaries of how we even begin to
understand and think about those lines of di√erence and division that
impose their dreadful order on the sheer restlessness and creative ferment
of living and historical becoming.
More specifically, this book examines the everyday processes of trans-
national migration, racialization, labor subordination, and class forma-
tion, as well as the historical production of the structures of citizenship
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