Regulation and resistance : pesticides, farmworkers, and the production of California’s agricultural landscape
This study examines the role of pesticides and immigrant farmworkers in the production of California’s agricultural landscape. While pesticides are more strictly regulated in California than any other state, pesticide exposure persists with alarming frequency in low-income rural communities, and particularly among immigrant farmworkers who comprise the vast majority of California’s vast agricultural labor force. The objectives of this study are twofold. First, I trace connections between the intimate scale of the body and global scale of agricultural production and food supply. Through an engagement with feminist geographic concepts such as the global-intimate and countertopography, I examine how anti-immigrant hostility exacerbates farmworkers’ experiences with pesticide exposure, and consequently, how these communities mobilize for environmental and immigrant justice. Second, I explore how the political and economic geographies of agricultural-urban interfaces shape environmental justice struggles. I focus on a set of regulations proposed by the California Department of Regulation in 2017 which govern the application of restricted pesticides around schools, and situate the ensuing regulatory debate within the physical landscape of agricultural-urban interfaces where farms and neighborhoods meet. All research took place within the Central Valley of California, including Madera, Merced, Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties, over the span of six weeks in June and July 2017. This study employs mostly qualitative research methods, including secondary data analysis, observant participation, in-depth and semi-structured interviews, and focus group facilitation, and some use of Geographic Information Systems and the California Environmental Health Tracking Program Pesticide Mapping Tool.