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Invisible Anthropologists: Engaged Anthropology in Immigrant Communities

Alayne Unterberger (Volume Editor), David Himmelgreen (General Editor), Satish Kedia (General Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-4443-3203-2
200 pages
August 2009, Wiley-Blackwell
Invisible Anthropologists: Engaged Anthropology in Immigrant Communities (1444332031) cover image


Anthropology is generally thought of as the study of exotic peoples in far-away lands. However, anthropologists have a long history of less exotic, applied “get-your-hands-dirty work.” As a nation of immigrants, the United States has enjoyed a reputation as a model for democracy and a place where newcomers’ dreams can come true. As such, this Bulletin could only have been written in the United States, home to so many immigrants from so many lands, who adapt in different and unique ways to form what we consider the nation. Comparatively little has been written about anthropologists engaged with immigrant communities. In fact, it is somewhat shocking that anthropologists—and historians—seem to have forgotten to document this important contribution to the extent that we have documented our far-away travels and studies.

This Bulletin is one such attempt. In it, we present a variety of perspectives, viewpoints, insights, and experiences of anthropologists who are actively engaged with immigrant communities across the United States, offering case studies from Florida, California, North Carolina, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Representing both university-based and NGO-based applied anthropologists, the authors discuss how deep, long-term engagement with immigrants has impacted our anthropological practice and how it in turn has shaped both theory and praxis. We share the personal and the professional, our challenges and our successes. The authors explore the nuances of our simultaneous, multiple roles vis-à-vis the immigrants themselves, the consequences of generational changes within our immigrant populations and how state policies, migration shifts and post-9/11 group responses have affected both our work and our multiple roles with communities. We present recommendations, lessons learned and future opportunities for U.S.-based anthropologists working with our unique brand of “exotic”—mainly Mexican and Latin American immigrants in 21st-century United States.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Blur: Balancing Applied Anthropology, Activism, and Self vis-à-vis Immigrant Communities (Alayne Unterberger).

Engaging with the Immigrant Human Rights Movement in a Besieged Border Region: What Do Applied Social Scientists Bring to the Policy Process? (Josiah McC. Heyman, Maria Cristina Morales, Guillermina Gina Núñez).

Immigrants Fleeing a Dying Industry: Applying Rapid Ethnographic Assessment Procedures to the Study of Tobacco Farmworkers (David Griffith).

Juramentos and Mandas: Traditional Catholic Practices and Substance Abuse in Mexican Communities of Southeastern Pennsylvania (Víctor García, Laura González).

The Soccer Wars: Hispanic Immigrants in Conflict and Adaptation at the Soccer Borderzone (Tim Wallace).

Life in the 813: One day a Migrant Student, the Next a Gangster (Alayne Unterberger).

Thirty Cans of Beef Stew and a Thong: Anthropologist as Academic, Administrator, and Activist in the U.S.–Mexico Border Region (Konane M. Martínez)

Inventing a Public Anthropology with Latino Farm Labor Organizers in North Carolina (Sandy Smith-Nonini).

Biosketches of Authors.

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Author Information

Alayne Unterberger began her career as a bilingual outreach worker and clinical social worker. Since becoming interested in research 15 years ago, she has worked in diverse communities, with an emphasis on Participatory Action Research, community building and facilitated change. Her geographic areas of work include the United States, Puerto Rico,Mexico, and Nicaragua. Since 2002, she has served as the executive director of the Florida Institute for Community Studies (FICS), a not-for-profit organization that works with multicultural and disenfranchised communities across Florida. She holds a Ph.D. in medical anthropology from the University of Florida. She is a former coeditor of the NAPA Bulletin series and has served as the student representative on the NAPA Board of Directors. Her work includes binational health status research, family planning, HIV/AIDS/STD prevention, gender studies, migration, immigration, policy analysis, social marketing, and youth development. Her current research interests include historical treatment of immigrants in the United States, the role of science in evidence-based prevention programs, and safety issues in social networking sites.
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