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Cameras in the Fields: Leonard Nadel’s Photography, Mexican Migrant Workers, and Competing Photo-Narratives of the Bracero Program, 1954–1959

Cameras in the Fields: Leonard Nadel’s Photography, Mexican Migrant Workers, and Competing Photo-Narratives of the Bracero Program, 1954–1959
1 Devonshire Place, Munk School of Global Affairs, Room 208N
Time: Mar 29th, 4:00 pm End: Mar 29th, 5:30 pm
Interest Categories: United States Studies, Latin American, History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), Food Studies, Digital Art/Humanities, Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (UTM), Arts, Culture and Media (UTSC), Art (FAS), 1950-2000
Talk by Erica Toffoli, PhD Candidate, History Department, University of Toronto

The Centre for the Study of the United States presents

Cameras in the Fields: Leonard Nadel's Photography, Mexican Migrant Workers, and Competing Photo-Narratives of the Bracero Program, 1954-1959

In the summer of 1956, Leonard Nadel captured nearly 2,000 images of Mexican agricultural workers brought to the U.S. through the Bracero Program (1942-1964). Nadel published two photo-essays in 1957, based on these images. This talk explores the ways in which Nadel's photographs disrupted the claims of 1950s photo-narratives, which ignored the program's abuses and the often brutal nature of braceros' lives by revealing images suppressed in the program's antecedent and subsequent depictions. Nadel's photographs made visible the often concealed working and living conditions of those whose efforts stocked American refrigerators, and served as a means by which braceros visually inscribed themselves into complaints directed at the program. As the centrepiece of the National Museum of American History's current "Bittersweet Harvest" exhibit, and as a touchstone of ex-braceros' and their advocates' activism, the contemporary circulation of Nadel's images continues to inform historical memory of the program. This talk explores photography's use by marginalized, transnational migrant workers, the symbiotic and potentially contradictory relationship between image and text, and the visual representations of migrant labour that circulated in the 1950s, and continue to inform historical memory of the bracero experience in the U.S.

Erica Toffoli is a third-year PhD Candidate in the History Department at the University of Toronto, researching undocumented Latin American migration to the U.S. in the post-World War II period. Her dissertation, "Imagining ‘Illegality': The Origins and Reinvention of the Mexican ‘Illegal Alien' in the U.S., 1965-1986," examines federal and state-level policymakers' approaches to undocumented migration, and traces how undocumented migrants and their advocates challenged the "illegal alien" label in the southwestern borderlands by promoting workers' and human rights as alternative inclusionary frameworks that might supplant the category of "citizenship." She received her M.A. in history from the University of Toronto in 2012.

This event is free and open to all. Register online. For further information, please contact Stella Kyriakakis at 416-946-8972.

 

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