An anthropology research project leads to a book, a website and a job for a recent USF graduate.
Recent immigrants and people descended from earlier immigrants – whether voluntary or forced – often eye each other warily, sometimes finding themselves at odds.
Making a connection can be as simple as knowing how to start a conversation – one that can become the basis for working together – rather than a fight.
But as Angela Stuesse has found, such conversations often don’t just happen. And if they do, they can be touchy.
“Across cultures, knowing what not to say can be as important as knowing what to say and how to say it,” points out Stuesse, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida.
Her research into the consequences of new Latino immigrants, African Americans and working class Whites coming face to face at work in the South has taught her a great deal about bridging differences.
“People don’t always know what to make of newcomers. They’re struggling with the changes happening all around them and with beliefs such as ‘they’re taking our jobs’ and other misperceptions,” she said. “Immigrants, too, may hold racial and other biases toward those they come into contact with. There’s a need to help groups understand each other. Ideally, they can work together and develop mutual respect.”
Stuesse’s research has had many positive impacts. For one, there’s her forthcoming book, “Globalization ‘Southern Style.’” It tells the story of transformation of small-town Mississippi when Latino immigrants begin working and organizing alongside African Americans in the area’s chicken processing plants.
While working in Mississippi, Stuesse was a founding collaborator of the poultry worker center, MPOWER, where she drew upon her research to help facilitate structured dialogue and spaces for political education and cultural sharing among immigrant and U.S.-born poultry worker leaders.
In addition, prior to the book coming out, Stuesse has made an important contribution to the communities she engaged in her research – a contribution that will facilitate further bridge-building conversations.
“Based on our experiences in Mississippi, I was curious how communities in other places are having similar conversations about immigration, race and social change, and what materials they have developed to aid such exchanges,” she said.
Therefore, during her post-doctoral studies at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, she and her colleagues there began seeking answers to this question. “What we discovered was that there are groups working on this issue all across the country and that they were eager to share and learn from one another.”
From that, a very special project was born.
What began as collaborative research that analyzed programs and materials developed across the United States, grew into something more: Intergroup Resources, a comprehensive and impressive new online resource center. It’s evolving into a growing national network.
“We gathered these materials as well as the lessons learned by the various groups to make them broadly available to others embarking on intergroup relations work,” Stuesse said.
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