As the summer migrant labor season is in full swing in the U.S., health inequities and other social disparities that affect these communities become more visible. Over 3 million people in the U.S. work temporarily or seasonally in farm fields, orchards, canneries, plant nurseries, fish/seafood/meat packing plants, and more. These workers, who are overwhelmingly Black and/or Latinx, experience significant occupational and environmental exposures, deplorable living conditions, limited safety training, and few supporting regulations. Additionally, migrant and seasonal workers are among the lowest paid, lack access to health information, preventive care, and medical treatment.
According to American University anthropologist and global health expert Thurka Sangaramoorthy, there is a human cost to American food consumption. Her work shows how these patterns of vulnerability reflect historical exclusion, motivated by anti-immigrant racism, labor practices traced to the Jim Crow era, and an immigration and labor policy environment in which immigrants avoid reporting illness or seeking care for fear of retaliation from employers.
July 2023 – ongoing
Thurka Sangaramoorthy, an anthropologist and global health researcher, is professor of anthropology at American University. She writes and teaches on global health, cultural and medical anthropology, and ethnographic research methods. Sangaramoorthy’s latest book, Landscapes of Care: Immigration and Health in Rural America (University of North Carolina Press, 2023), examines how immigrants, mainly from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the U.S., seek, receive, and navigate health care in the rural United States, showing that corporatization of health care delivery, life in rural America, and immigration policies are all deeply connected.
Since 1990, as immigration to the United States has risen sharply, rural areas have seen the highest increases. Sangaramoorthy’s fieldwork centers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a sparsely populated area that has experienced a large influx of immigrants over the past several decades. Sangaramoorthy shows how longstanding issues of precarity among rural health systems, along with the exclusionary logics of immigration, have mutually fashioned what she calls the “landscape of care” on the Eastern Shore, where shared conditions of physical suffering and emotional anxiety among immigrants and rural residents generate powerful forms of rural vitality and social inclusion. She connects the Eastern Shore and its immigrant populations to many other places around the world that are struggling with the challenges of global migration, rural precarity, and health governance.
Sangaramoorthy is available to discuss a wide array of topics related to immigration including migration; migrant labor; immigrant health; rural health; rural Maryland; health; health care; care; rural health systems; immigration in rural America; food and labor justice issues; health policy; immigration policy; health disparities; health equity; minority health; social determinants of health; Black immigrants; racism; racialization and health; and racialization and immigrants.