Words of Passage

Words of Passage : National Longing and the Imagined Lives of Mexican Migrants

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Migration fundamentally shapes the processes of national belonging and socioeconomic mobility in Mexico-even for people who never migrate or who return home permanently. Discourse about migrants, both at the governmental level and among ordinary Mexicans as they envision their own or others' lives in "El Norte," generates generic images of migrants that range from hardworking family people to dangerous lawbreakers. These imagined lives have real consequences, however, because they help to determine who can claim the resources that facilitate economic mobility, which range from state-sponsored development programs to income earned in the North.

Words of Passage is the first full-length ethnography that examines the impact of migration from the perspective of people whose lives are affected by migration, but who do not themselves migrate. Hilary Parsons Dick situates her study in the small industrial city of Uriangato, in the state of Guanajuato. She analyzes the discourse that circulates in the community, from state-level pronouncements about what makes a "proper" Mexican to working-class people's talk about migration. Dick shows how this migration discourse reflects upon and orders social worlds long before-and even without-actual movements beyond Mexico. As she listens to men and women trying to position themselves within the migration discourse and claim their rights as "proper" Mexicans, she demonstrates that migration is not the result of the failure of the Mexican state but rather an essential part of nation-state building.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 312 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 25.4mm | 585g
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • English
  • 1477314024
  • 9781477314029

Table of contents

Technical Note: Methodology and Methods
Introduction. Words of Passage: Imagined Lives, Migration Discourse, and National Belonging
1. So Far from God: State-Endorsed Imaginaries of Moral Mobility in Mexico
2. Private Eyes, Good Girls: Authoritative Accounts and the Social Life of Interviewing
3. Diaspora at Home: Homebuilding and the Failures of Mexican Progress
4. Possibility and Perdition: Discursive Interaction and Ethico-Moral Practice in Traditionalist Talk of Migration
5. Saints and Suffering: Critical Appeal in Relationships with the Divine Beyond
Conclusion. Worlds of Passage: Moral Mobility in Global Context
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Review quote

"Words of Passage offers a rich, insightful, and thought-provoking analysis of the processes that inform working-class Mexicans' imaginaries about national belonging and Mexicanidad." * American Journal of Sociology * "[Words of Passage] provides novel and astute insight into the dynamics of the well-examined sphere of Mexican migration...[Dick] demonstrates that physical movement is perhaps less important than it might seem, and that going deeper is as important as going farther." * Great Plains Research * "I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in migration issues because it does an excellent job of focusing on the actual experience of peoples affected by migration." * AmeriQuests * "While some of the discourses the book unpacks do seem to be words of passage, the power of Dick's work lies in having captured them in their historical and social context, creating a roadmap for contemporary researchers to examine new discourses that circulate now." * American Anthropologist *
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About Hilary Parsons Dick

Hilary Parsons Dick is an associate professor of international studies at Arcadia University. She investigates Mexico-US migration from the perspectives of discourse analysis; the political economies of language; and gender, class, and ethno-racial relations.
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