Producing Environmental Injustice: Legitimation Struggles Facing Pesticide-Intensive Agriculture in Ventura County
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
In the proposed presentation, I will use the concept of symbolic violence, as theorized by Bourdieu (1994), and the concepts of social boundaries and morality, as theorized by Lamont (2000), to explore how shared values and ideologies about agricultural work reinforce environmental injustices. I found that diverse agricultural health stakeholders share a worldview that values production quotas, risk-taking, resilience, hard work, and success. This emphasis on production and hard work diverts individual, organizational, and societal focus away from individual health risks. For example, in order to preserve job stability in a fast paced, dangerous work environment and to conform with social norms, agricultural employees have adopted collective actions that put farmworkers and their families at greater risk for harmful pesticide exposure. Direct supervisors have adopted collective actions, such as dismissing and denying pesticide complaints and threatening employees who voice concerns with termination and replacement. Farm workers have also adopted collective actions, such as keeping their concerns silent, self-treating pesticide symptoms, and working through injury and illness. The unique challenges and unpredictability of agricultural employees’ everyday lives and work lives interfere with adherence to popular policies and safety protocols that pesticide regulators prescribe.
Through inductive data analysis, I will shed light on the shortcomings of policy implementation that can only be uncovered by examining complex cultural and social phenomenon at the local level. I will also suggest immediate actions that local stakeholders can take to improve decision-making processes and practices and to enhance health protections for farm workers.