Pp. 487-522 (36)
Keith V. Bletzer
The final chapter pulls together materials from previous chapters, examines the
occurrence of gray zone practices in agriculture as evidence of marginalization and
structural vulnerability, and identifies similarities between farm labor and the model of bare
life proposed by Giorgio Agamben. Farm labor was one of the last occupations in North
American society to receive legislated protections, which have yet to reach the allencompassing
provisions of other labor categories. Willful negligence was strongest when
agriculture began implementing industrialized labor practices, resulting in severe
difficulties and horrendous experiences faced by farm workers. Despite a few protections
mostly in worksite safety and housing, enforcement of statutes is typically inconsistent.
Shifting attitudes toward those who are undocumented, and insulation of minority workers
in agriculture, complement strategies of willful negligence. Both continue and magnify
worker susceptibility to drug/alcohol abuse, owing to their structural vulnerability and the
existence of few socio-legal supports for improved conditions.
Despite the role they play in generating the foodstuffs on which we rely for the survival
of our species, farm workers are too often denied the full respect they deserve for what
they do under unforgiving circumstances. There must be a better way than
drugs/alcohol to pay respect and honor their labor ....
Agriculture, horticulture, foraging, hunting/gathering, domesticates,
food storage, subsistence sharing, communitarian practices, pioneer, gray zone, bare
life, willful negligence, exclusionary practices, advantage, disadvantage, labor
protections, forced labor, tenancy, entrapped workers, and survival imperative.
School of Human Evolution and Social Change Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ (USA)