Northwestern Events Calendar


Anthropology Colloquium: Sergio Lemus, Texas A&M University

When: Monday, May 17, 2021
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM CT

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Nancy Hickey   (847) 467-1507

Group: Anthropology Department

Co-Sponsor: Anthropology Colloquia and Events

Category: Lectures & Meetings, Academic


The Use of Border Theory: An Anthropological Approach to Explain Colorism among Mexican Yarderos in Chicago

By the 1990s, Mexican migration to the United States grew exponentially, given the stagnated Mexican economy a decade earlier. Coupled with the institutionalization of neoliberal austerity measures and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, the United States, and Canada, this trend continued until the late 2000s. This opened the opportunity for migrants to establish small lawn service companies entirely owned and operated by Mexicans in Chicago, Illinois. Thus, in this talk, I offer an overview of my ethnographic work on Mexican, working-class migrants who mow Chicago residents' lawn for a living. In my fieldwork, they are called landscapers, gardeners, “the lawn guy,” but they prefer to proudly call themselves, “Yarderos.” I will then venture into how migrants understand their color subjectivity by examining the material and discursive production of Mexican colorismo, and its distinct presence in the lives of Mexicans as they migrate and settle in El Norte (the North). I argue that border theory helps document the shifting terrains of color hierarchies to understand how participants encounter color orders in South Chicago in their everyday life. Thus, I use the term “color inspections” to make sense of how a cultural understanding of a “transborder colorismo” emerges as a structuring force in working-class people's lives despite some calls that suggest we live in a so-called post-racial society. Indeed, as the past summer showed us very clearly, colorism, class, and social movements are the fertile terrains to think about the multiple color inspections that we still need to understand. My research on Mexican yarderos is a step in that direction. 

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