The dignity of job-seeking men: Boundary work among immigrant day laborers

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54 Scopus citations


Drawing on interviews and comparative ethnographic fieldwork in two day labor hiring sites (a street corner labor market and a "regulated" day labor worker center), this article examines the discourses through which Latino immigrant day laborers make sense of, and find dignity within, their ongoing quest for work. My findings reveal a clear pattern of "boundary work" along the center/street divide, wherein each group of day laborers asserts its dignity and masculinity by repudiating what they construe to be the feminine submission exemplified by the other group. I argue that gender both shapes and is shaped through the articulation of these moral boundaries and show how workers' struggle to attain dignity-in this case, via strategies of social differentiation and distinction-can act against the formation of a collective identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-139
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Day labor
  • Immigrants
  • Masculinity
  • Symbolic boundaries
  • Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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