Emergent transnational spaces: Meat, sweat and global (re)production in the heartland

Miraftab, F.

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Miraftab, F. (2012). Emergent transnational spaces: Meat, sweat and global (re)production in the heartland. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36(6), 1204–1222. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2427.2011.01070.x

Immigrants , Latinx , Meat-packing , Mediating Spaces , Rural , Transnational Spaces , West African

This article asks whether locality and the varied resources, networks and racialized histories of local actors make a difference in the experience of immigrants and their transnational practices. Such questions are typically explored in metropolitan centers and global cities, but the present work results from an ethnographic study of a previously all‐white rural Illinois town, where the meat processing industry recruited a labor force translocally among Latin Americans and West Africans. The article reports on the experience of this rapidly diversifying town where both formal politics and the liberal‐democratic channels of citizens' participation in governance remain exclusionary. Despite this, the diverse immigrant populations have achieved a certain inclusion in public institutions and public spaces. Paying attention to the dynamics developing across immigrant groups through everyday spaces of interaction within their residential community, I argue that the kinds of mediating spaces local context offers are critical to the ability of diverse immigrant groups to renegotiate the interracial social and spatial relations they encounter in a highly contested and constrained context where a global corporation is the sole local employer.

Main finding
The author describes how Latinx and West African immigrants exercised agency in mediating spaces (ie. spaces outside the production floor on the town’s main employer) to reconstitute public spaces in this formally all-white rural town. Actions/tactics taken by the immigrants included: having high home ownership rates, advocating for multi-lingual education programs in schools, having a strong bodily presence in public spaces through participation in sports (which helped them acquire legitimate playing fields), having cultural identity celebrations, and living in integrated neighborhoods. The author argues that the 'art of presence' has been critical in creating co-constituted public spaces such that everyday spaces which mediate interracial relations outside the factory production floor play a significant role in renegotiating those relationships corporations promote through the creation of a segmented labor market.

Description of method used in the article
The study (from 2004-2011) involved 70 semi-structured, in-depth interviews and over 500 (mail in or door visit) home surveys in English, French and Spanish. The analysis was grounded in global capitalism's historically and geographically specific locations and actors. The analytical framework used three approaches: (a) transnationalism from below (ie. everyday practices reveals forms of agency and interracial solidarities), (b) mediation, and (c) non-collective action (forms of agency).

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Field Observations Interviews
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