Marketing Identity and Bodies on a New York City Street CornerCarolyn Pinedo-Turnovsky
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
"Pinedo-Turnovsky highlights the richness of fieldwork in her portrait of the everyday lives of day workers on a Brooklyn street corner. The author does a superb job of capturing the social dynamics of the street corner and how it shapes the lifestyles and life changes of day laborers. In the process, the author critically examines social categories such as immigrant and citizen and explores the discrimination and exploitation experienced by those living on the margins of US society. She also provides an account of the support networks that develop on the street corner and challenges many of the stereotypes about immigrant workers. This fascinating account of day laborers will be applicable to courses on urban sociology and the sociology of work. Summing Up: Recommended."
" Through this book, it is made clear that daily laborers are active participants in their own economic and social lives; daily laborers are not just looking to make money, but also to create a social community and institute changes in the labor market.... Overall, this book provides a new understanding of the unique identities and situations in which men gain employment and is a significant contribution to the literature in a variety of areas."
— Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare
" (E)mpirically rich and theoretically significant.... This is a remarkable ethnography that will be of interest to students, scholars, advocates, and allies of day laborers and low-wage working immigrants. Pinedo-Turnovksy is a skilled ethnographer who takes time to write herself and the benefits and disadvantages created by her positionality vis-a`-vis her participants into her work in a way that promotes understanding of the study."
— Contemporary Sociology
"(This) new book by Carolyn Pinedo-Turnovsky joins a small body of research focused on the job culture of immigrant workers.... (She)
should be commended for her ethnographic fieldwork on the street corners with the day laborers.... Pinedo-Turnovsky has written a carefully observed ethnography of a new kind of street corner society."
— Men and Masculinities