Many years later, this essay is the result. It analyses the art as a form of agricultural ideology that, I argue, inhibits much needed labor reforms by either obscuring the role of California’s vast Latinx agricultural labor force or, alternately, depicting them as content in their work.
Although I have long incorporated my own photography into my research, this was my first time analyzing visual culture created by others. It is a line of work I intend to continue developing.
It was also a pleasure to return to Boom, which published my photo essay with Julie Sze, “Images from the Central Valley,” in their inaugural edition in 2011. Boom tries to thread the needle of doing public-facing scholarship that still “counts” in the evaluations that faculty undergo within their institutions by creating a free, online, magazine-like publication that still puts its manuscripts through peer review. It is a model I wish more publishers would adopt.
If you’ve ever been to a workshop on how to write an op-ed, you’ll know that the leaders spend a lot of time talking about the need for your piece to have a “hook.” This usually means finding a way to link what you want to say to some kind of timely news event. Most of these are fairly straightforward. On Mother’s Day, you publish your op-ed about the need for state-sponsored maternity leave. On Valentine’s Day, you write about worker abuses and pesticide poisoning in the international cut-flower industry. Or, for another Valentine’s Day idea, you write about fossil fuels.
Wait, what? How do fossil fuels go together with Valentine’s Day? Well, watch “Breaking Up With Fossil Fuels is Hard to Do” for an example of a masterful, if somewhat unexpected, media “hook.”
Then, use it in your classrooms!
For media studies classes, use it as an example of a media “hook,” as described above. Or use it after showing this video first. Then use both videos to analyze framing, strategic political communication, and how political actors respond to the messages of their opponents.
For environmental studies, social movements, or politics classes, use the video above and this video as a way to get students interested in the politics of climate change. Both videos tell simplified, politicized stories. What truth is there in both videos? What are the the different plans that already exist for lowering our use of fossil fuels? What political forces oppose these plans? How likely are the plans to succeed in the contemporary political moment? What would it take for them to succeed?
For gender classes, watch the first video and ask students, “How is gender being used in this vide? What does it mean that the “fossil fuels” character is female? That the narrator is female? That the story is tied to Valentine’s Day and breaking up? What stereotypes about women are being used to help make the point that we shouldn’t “Break up with fossil fuels?”
Thank you to Jean Boucher and Milton Takei for sharing these videos on the environmental sociology listserve of the American Sociological Association. Happy teaching!
Today I released a new digital project to honor the memory of California pesticides activist Teresa De Anda, and to help educate the public about the problem of pesticide drift. In Her Own Words is an expansion of the blog post I wrote the day before Teresa’s memorial service last fall. It includes photography, new and previously published oral history, suggestions for readings to use with the website in college classrooms, links to resources to help address the problem of pesticide drift in community settings, and a short essay I wrote about Teresa.
Thank you, Valerie Gorospe, for allowing me to continue to work with your mother’s stories, and to share them with others so they might learn from everything she accomplished. Thank you also for your support Linda MacKay, Lauren Richter, Tracey Brieger, Sarah Aird, Tracey Osborne, Rachel Deblinger, Zoe Stricker and Evelyn Torres Arellano.
With Teresa, in front of a photo I took of her, at an exhibit of my photography in Fresno. February 10, 2011.