Accepted paper:

Tobacco, migration and labour


Maria de Lourdes Salazar Martinez (CIESAS)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this paper is to discuss the contradictions that entail out of the tobacco companies actions to improve corporate social responsibility. In the specific case of tobacco production, where exploitation, corruption and moral values are inseparably linked.

Paper long abstract:

The aim of this paper is to discuss some of the contradictions that surround tobacco production. Ethnographical information will be collected over the next 12 months (from August 2012 to August 2013). This ethnographic study is an endeavour to better understand the reconstitution of social relations. Research material will be pulled from two tobacco regions (one in Mexico and the other in the United States) that are linked by the imposition of neoliberal restructuring projects. Firstly, notwithstanding the efforts of the largest tobacco companies such as Philip Morrison and British American Tobacco towards corporate social responsibility, exploitation at the bottom and corruption within the industry are ever present. Tobacco companies search for areas where anti-smoking laws are more flexible; for example, they have benefited from the corruption that characterises the Mexican legal system. The Mexican government have procured good deals for the tobacco companies by way of subtle manoeuvre. Secondly, relations among the actors within the various stages of tobacco production demonstrate historical differentiation. Differentiation can be noted between indigenous migrant workers and mestizo day labourers in the Mexican tobacco fields and between black and white, and black and white and Latino immigrants in the Kentucky tobacco fields. Such distinctions have been central to the production of tobacco as racialization has been an effective method of control. Thirdly, people do not plant tobacco only for profit, but also to follow family tradition. Moreover, the tobacco production is linked to certain core national values in Mexico and the United States.

panel G40
Law and public morality: pluralism beyond law (IUAES Commission on Legal Pluralism)