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Breaks in the Chain

What Immigrant Workers Can Teach America about Democracy

2010
Author:

Paul Apostolidis

Breaks in the Chain

How immigrants’ stories can transform social power

Breaks in the Chain shows how immigrant workers—individually and sometimes collectively—both reinforce and contest a tacit but lethal form of biopolitics that differentiates the life chances of racial groups. Examining their personal narratives, Paul Apostolidis recasts our understanding of the ways immigrants construct and transform social power.

Theoretically illuminating, politically engaged, and of vital importance, Breaks in the Chain lucidly intertwines subtle reflections about the ways immigrants negotiate and contest power with the interview narratives in a riveting manner. It exemplifies the very best of contemporary political theory.

Romand Coles, Northern Arizona University

In Breaks in the Chain, Paul Apostolidis investigates the personal life stories of a group of Mexican immigrant meatpackers who are at once typical and extraordinary. After crossing the border clandestinely and navigating the treacherous world of the undocumented, they waged a campaign to democratize their union and their workplace in the most hazardous industry in the United States.

Breaks in the Chain shows how immigrant workers—individually and sometimes collectively—both reinforce and contest a tacit but lethal form of biopolitics that differentiates the life chances of racial groups. Examining their personal narratives, Apostolidis recasts our understanding of the ways immigrants construct and transform social power.

Apostolidis uses empirical inquiry to spark new reflections in critical theory as he analyzes how immigrant workers’ local practices confront structural power within and beyond America’s borders. Linking stories of immigration to stories about working on the meat production line—the chain—he reveals the surprising power of activism by immigrant workers and their allies and demonstrates how it can—and should—promote social and political democracy in America.

Breaks in the Chain

Paul Apostolidis holds the Judge and Mrs. Timothy A. Paul Chair of Political Science at Whitman College. He is the author of Stations of the Cross: Adorno and Christian Right Radio and coeditor of Public Affairs: Politics in the Age of Sex Scandals.

Breaks in the Chain

Theoretically illuminating, politically engaged, and of vital importance, Breaks in the Chain lucidly intertwines subtle reflections about the ways immigrants negotiate and contest power with the interview narratives in a riveting manner. It exemplifies the very best of contemporary political theory.

Romand Coles, Northern Arizona University

Breaks in the Chain is tremendously important and timely, treating as it does the intersection between immigration and unionization that is currently a critical edge of left politics and a new frontier of biopolitical power.

Lisa Disch, University of Michigan

Breaks in the Chain retains its currency and powerful political message without ever denying its immigrant protagonists humanity, dignity and agency.

Journal of American Studies

Apostolidis is not content to let the workers just “tell their story.”...Breaks in the Chain seeks to interpret the workers’ narratives in the language of critical theory.

Labor Studies Journal

Apostolidis has certainly offered a thoughtful, innovative and worthwhile account of agency, inviting readers to work with him as he pursues these different narrative (and analytical) threads as a dynamic grounding for political democratic theorizing.

Theory & Event

Breaks in the Chain will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, students as well as a
wider public interested in fields covering political theory, social movements, transnational
migration, amongst others, and related methodologies.

Breaks in the Chain

Breaks in the Chain

Contents


Acknowledgments
Acronyms

Introduction: Immigration, Power, and Politics in America Today

1. Political Narratives, Common Sense, and Theories of Hegemony

2. Hegemony in Hindsight: Immigrant Workers’ Stories of Power in Mexico

3. Stories of Fate and Agency in the Zone of Illegality

4. Labor, Injury, and Self-Preservation in the Slaughterhouse

5. ¡Nosotros Somos la Unión! Immigrant Worker Organizing and the Disciplines of the Law

Conclusion: Immigrant Workers and Counterhegemony

Appendix: Interview Methods
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Breaks in the Chain

UMP blog: Working conditions, the battle at Tyson, and the Wisconsin moment

Wisconsin’s infamous Act 10 is snarled in the courts and the media spotlight on Governor Walker’s assault on workers’ rights has dimmed. But after spending the last decade writing about a courageous bunch of workers in Washington State who came to realize, as the song goes, that “there is power in a union,” and who fought a long and bitter struggle to preserve that power, I hope Americans of good will do what takes to keep our “Wisconsin moment” alive. (4/7/2011)

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