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The recipient of the 2017 Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology is Sarah Horton for her book They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and “Illegality” among U.S. Farmworkers. Within the book she draws upon a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in California’s Central Valley to examine the causes of the high rate of heat-related deaths among immigrant farmworkers. Horton shows that even as growers, the media, and state occupational safety officials tend to naturalize farmworkers’ deaths from heat stroke, U.S. labor, immigration, health care, and food safety policies all play a role in this tragedy.
This book challenges official accounts of the causes and prevalence of heatstroke and outlines concrete policy solutions to remedy the problem. Horton has written reports for California’s occupational health and safety agency, Cal-OSHA, on how company food safety policies compromise workers’ health in the fields and is working with several California labor advocacy organizations and nonprofits to encourage companies to change their policies.
They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields aims not only to increase public awareness of the frequency of heat stroke among farmworkers, but also to correct common myths about undocumented workers in the United States. In particular, the book challenges the common portrayal of undocumented immigrants as “identity thieves” and questions the validity of document-related criminal charges often levied against immigrants. Horton has published op-eds on this topic in sources including the Huffington Post, the Daily Kos, the Denver Post, and the San Diego Tribune, and her work on this issue has been featured on National Public Radio, Mother Jones, Quartz, La Opinión, and Noticiero Telemundo.
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