Harvesting Consciousness: The Impact of Seasonal Labour on the Transnational Political Identity of Guatemalan Migrants to Canada

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Valarezo, Giselle
Transmigrant , Guatemala , Political Participation
The Temporary Agricultural Worker to Canada (TAWC) project was introduced in 2003 with the purpose of recruiting Guatemalan migrants to fill seasonal labour voids in Canada. Workers contracted through TAWC directives have received minimal scholarly attention, given the infancy of the program and the substantial focus on Mexican migrants recruited through the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. This dissertation illuminates the transnational political realities of Guatemalans by examining the impact that circular migration has on the subaltern migrant body. Fieldwork was conducted in two sites, the first St. Rémi in Québec, the second Santiago Sacatepéquez in Guatemala. Research findings underscore the transnational nature of the flow of hegemonic (discipline, insecurity, oppression, exploitation) and counter hegemonic (empowerment, liberation, collectiveness, security) political ideas and activities between the spaces traversed by migrants. The study engages a multi-faceted ethnographic design in order to explore the spatiality of political consciousness, assessing Guatemalan migrant responses to a range of ideas and activities imparted by agencies of power. These include both the Canadian and Guatemalan governments, the International Organization for Migration, and le Fondation des entreprises pour le recrutement de la main-d'oeuvre étrangère along with a range of transnational supporting allies. Nevertheless, the decision to (dis)engage in certain politicized conduct is largely dependent on the human agency of Guatemalan migrants, as they find the means to cope with the pressures of seasonal migration. A political economy perspective allows me to engage three debates that theoretically frame the transnational political identity of Guatemalan migrants. These are: (1) processes of political transnationalism; (2) neoliberal agenda and mindsets; and (3) migrant political consciousness, with a particular emphasis on Foucauldian concepts of governmentality and Gramscian notions of hegemony and consciousness. By engaging the (re)shaping of transnational political identity as a phenomenon influenced by agencies of power, and more importantly, the human agency of subaltern migrants, my dissertation emphasizes migrant (un)willingness to embrace and/or suppress certain resources that restructure political consciousness and political action. The versatility and fluidity of transmigrant political identity reveal that the distinct realities of individuals are constructed by travelling back and forth, as seasonal labourers, between Guatemala and Canada.
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