Down Country Lanes, Behind Abandoned Houses

Down Country Lanes, Behind Abandoned Houses

Indexed in: Book Citation Index, Social Sciences & Humanities.

Based on six years of extended ethnography in multiple agricultural areas of the Eastern United States, Down Country Lanes, Behind Abandoned Houses is a monograph which explores the lives of migrant ...
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Pp. 487-522 (36)

DOI: 10.2174/9781681081045115010015

Author(s): 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.