Marketing Identity and Bodies on a New York City Street Corner
Publication: Mar 19
Publication: Mar 19
Publication: Mar 19
6 x 9
Examining the vulnerabilities, discrimination, and exploitation—as well as the sense of belonging and community—that day laborers experience on an NYC street corner
On street corners throughout the country, men stand or sit together patiently while they wait for someone looking to hire un buen trabajador (a good worker). These day laborers are visible symbols of the changing nature of work—and the demographics of workers—in the United States.
Carolyn Pinedo-Turnovsky spent nearly three years visiting with African American men and Latino immigrant men who looked for work as day laborers at a Brooklyn street intersection. Her fascinating ethnography, Daily Labors, considers these immigrants and citizens as active participants in their social and economic life. They not only work for wages but also labor daily to institute change, create knowledge, and contribute new meanings to shape their social world.
Daily Labors reveals how ideologies about race, gender, nation, and legal status operate on the corner and the vulnerabilities, discrimination, and exploitation workers face in this labor market. Pinedo-Turnovsky shows how workers market themselves to conform to employers’ preconceptions of a “good worker” and how this performance paradoxically leads to a more precarious workplace experience. Ultimately, she sheds light on belonging, community, and what a “good day laborer” for these workers really is.
"This ethnographic study of a community of day laborers who sought work at an intersection in Brooklyn, New York, deepens our understanding of not only how the labor market for this important, precarious form of employment functions but also how—despite the constraints produced by hierarchies created on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, immigration, and legality—workers maintain a sense of dignity and agency. By so doing, Pinedo-Turnovsky’s study enhances our knowledge of how structural conditions affect individuals’ interactions."
—Arne L. Kalleberg, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Precarious Lives: Job Insecurity and Well-Being in Rich Democracies
“A formidable account of the lives of day laborers in early twenty-first-century New York City, Daily Labors makes an important contribution to the literature on migration and urban studies. Pinedo-Turnovsky’s book is a uniquely valuable resource for scholars and students of the ethnography of contemporary work and labor. ”
—Immanuel Ness, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and author of Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class
“Through the masterful use of ethnography as guided by the original theoretical insight of the ‘ideal day laborer,’ Pinedo-Turnovsky allows us to gain a deep understanding of the counterintuitive, contradictory, and moral lives, identities, and realities of the work, bodies, and related positionalities of day laborers. More important still, we gain this understanding from the perspectives of the workers themselves. Good social science informs; excellent social science transforms our understanding in fundamental ways. Daily Labors is transformative social science at its best.”
—Luis Ricardo Fraga, Rev. Donald P. McNeill, C.S.C., Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership, Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame
Table of Contents
I. Making Good Workers
1. Street-Corner Workers
2. With One Look: Compadre’s Corner
3. Sergio and William: Becoming and Being “(Il)legal”
4. Daily Masculinity
II. Making Community
5. Entre Nosotros
6. Street-Corner Community
7. Methodology and Assessment of Doing This Fieldwork