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Chapter 6 ‘A Slow Assassination of your Soul’: Race, Citizenship and Gender Identities in the Borderlands of New Economic Places

Transnational Migration, Gender and Rights

ISBN: 978-1-78052-202-9, eISBN: 978-1-78052-203-6

ISSN: 2041-806X

Publication date: 6 March 2012


In 2009, Lucha, a Mexican woman who had migrated to Chicago and worked at a candy factory described her work as ‘A slow assassination of your soul’. Her experience in the United States was transformative. The power she previously had as a community activist and college student in Mexico was eroded. Lucha's experience exemplifies a shift in her identity and how that changing identity fashioned the character of her economic activities. Race, ethnicity, and gender shift and change meaning through migration (Gilmartin, 2008, p. 1840) and shape ‘migrant women's multiple relations in the process of migration’ (Parreñas, 2009, p. 11). We are interested in the struggles, realities and contestations of immigrant women. We want to better understand how migrant women negotiate the dynamic intersections of race, gender and citizenship identities in new places in order to survive, prosper and exert influence in new places and economic environments. Based on indepth interviews with immigrant women in Chicago, Illinois, United States and in the Barcelona area of Spain, we demonstrate that issues of race, gender and citizenship influenced the kinds of jobs they obtained and the working conditions they experienced, as well as their ability to become accepted members of the community. In this chapter, we want to respond to the call made by Parreñas (2009) to contribute to the gender and migration literature by analysing structural gender inequalities beyond differences between men and women, and focusing on how gender inequalities are constructed as they intersect with other inequalities based on race and citizenship. The women we interviewed endured humiliation based on their intersecting identities at work; some questioned their belonging in their new countries while at the same time feeling that they did not belong in their home country, as other authors such as Parreñas (2001) have found. The challenge for planners and policymakers is to understand the intricacies of multiple identities across places and scales. Hearing their complex stories of work and perceptions of belonging in their country of origin and new country can help academics who are training future planners and professionals build more inclusive planning and policy theory and practice.


Sweet, E.L., Lee, S.S. and Ortiz Escalante, S. (2012), "Chapter 6 ‘A Slow Assassination of your Soul’: Race, Citizenship and Gender Identities in the Borderlands of New Economic Places", Aslaug Sollund, R. (Ed.) Transnational Migration, Gender and Rights (Advances in Ecopolitics, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 99-126.



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