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Seth Holmes is this year’s recipient of the Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology for his book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farm Workers in the United States.
Holmes writes a trenchant ethnography that offers new possibilities for an engaged, empathic anthropology. Working and living alongside the Triqui people of Oaxaca, Mexico he sees and experiences the searing inequalities they face in the aftermath of NAFTA. Holmes chronicles US policies and American expectations of beautiful, cheap foods to the impoverishment of indigenous farmers in rural Mexico, who migrate to North America in search of a better life.
Holmes’ immersive ethnography of the Triqui migrant experience exemplifies excellence in anticipatory anthropology on multiple levels. Through an “embodied anthropology of migration,” he captures the courage and tenacity of forced migrants, who are often caught by border patrols and imprisoned, as was Holmes himself. He compels readers to see how the sub-human conditions, the risks, fears, vulnerabilities and traumas that the Triqui endure are now also key ingredients in American “fresh fruit.” By picking berries alongside his Triqui interlocutors, Holmes shows “how the poor suffer”—not only through the physical pains and illnesses of stoop labor, but through structural vulnerabilities and racism tied to what he calls the “ethnic-citizenship hierarchy” in the US. Holmes reminds us that 95 percent of agricultural workers in the United States were born in Mexico, and that 52 percent of them remain unauthorized, receiving little in return for their back-breaking efforts. Holmes urges ethical and pragmatic solidarity with Mexican farmworkers in the US, pointing to future possibilities for immigration reform and for sharing our world more equally.
Holmes will be honored at an awards ceremony on November 16, 2016 at the 115th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association.