1 For reasons of racial politics, I capitalize Black and Blackness as they refer to the
social condition and historical specificity of African Americans, whereas I delib-
erately do not capitalize white or whiteness. Ralph Ellison, for instance, referred
to the capitalization of the term Negro as ‘‘one of the important early victories of
my own people in their fight for self-definition’’ (1953 [1964], 253). In contrast, as
David Roediger explains (1994, 13), ‘‘It is not merely that whiteness is oppressive
and false, it is that whiteness is nothing but oppressive and false. . . . Whiteness
describes not a culture but precisely . . . the empty and therefore terrifying
attempt to build an identity based on what one isn’t and on whom one can hold
2 I deploy quotes wherever the term ‘‘illegality’’ appears, and wherever the terms
‘‘legal’’ or ‘‘illegal’’ modify migration or migrants, in order to emphatically de-
naturalize the reification of this distinction. The appearance of quotes around
these terms should be understood to indicate not the precise historical terminol-
ogy that pertains in any particular instance so much as a general analytic practice
on my part. For further discussion, see chapter 6.
3 During this period, I generally was employed in three or four factories concur-
rently, in each of which I was teaching courses that ordinarily met twice a week
over periods of three months and included fifteen workers each, regularly a√ord-
ing abundant occasions for discussion and debate. Allowing for redundancies
among workers who participated in two or even three courses, I came to know
two to three hundred Mexican migrants over more or less extended periods of
time in my capacity as the instructor of these courses. As a complement to the
dialogues that ensued in these workplace classrooms, my position also required
me to conduct informal, thirty-minute, one-on-one interviews with what even-
tually amounted to approximately four hundred Mexican/migrant workers, as
part of the overall assessment of spoken English capabilities in these respective
workplaces. Likewise, due to the requirements of my job, periodic consultations
with management personnel provided ample opportunities to engage in partici-
pant observation and conduct informal interviews with these workers’ bosses.
4 These two periods of research were augmented, furthermore, by continued com-
munication during an interim sixteen-month period (April 1996–August 1997).
5 Almost all of the more extended ethnographic interviews were initiated with
Previous Page Next Page