Cloth $85.00 ISBN: 9780226653396 Published January 2013
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226653402 Published January 2013
E-book $7.00 to $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226922775 Published January 2013

American Value

Migrants, Money, and Meaning in El Salvador and the United States

David Pedersen

David Pedersen

304 pages | 10 halftones, 1 map, 3 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Cloth $85.00 ISBN: 9780226653396 Published January 2013
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226653402 Published January 2013
E-book $7.00 to $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226922775 Published January 2013
Over the past half-century, El Salvador has transformed dramatically. Historically reliant on primary exports like coffee and cotton, the country emerged from a brutal civil war in 1992 to find much of its national income now coming from a massive emigrant workforce—over a quarter of its population—that earns money in the United States and sends it home. In American Value, David Pedersen examines this new way of life as it extends across two places: Intipucá, a Salvadoran town infamous for its remittance wealth, and the Washington, DC, metro area, home to the second largest population of Salvadorans in the United States.
 
Pedersen charts El Salvador’s change alongside American deindustrialization, viewing the Salvadoran migrant work abilities used in new lowwage American service jobs as a kind of primary export, and shows how the latest social conditions linking both countries are part of a longer history of disparity across the Americas. Drawing on the work of Charles S. Peirce, he demonstrates how the defining value forms—migrant work capacity, services, and remittances—act as signs, building a moral world by communicating their exchangeability while hiding the violence and exploitation on which this story rests. Theoretically sophisticated, ethnographically rich, and compellingly written, American Value offers critical insights into practices that are increasingly common throughout the world.
Alexei Anisin | LSE Review of Books
American Values is an excellent account of the history of US–El Salvador relations and at the same time yields first-rate insights into popular issues in the political and social discourse of US and Latin American relations. A must read.”
Federico Helfgott | Transfers
“This approach is useful to students and scholars of mobility because it helps to analyze money, commodities, and economic forces—among the main factors linking the globe today—and because it finds connections among apparently unrelated spaces and events. The book moves seamlessly and skillfully between the lives of Salvadoran migrants and those employed by them back home, class and ethnic tensions in 1980’s Washington, DC, and the US defense industry’s role in reshaping both Central American warfare and suburban real estate in Northern Virginia. . . . American Value provides an important model of how to combine careful ethnography with an awareness of that which is not immediately present or visible under dominant modes of representation.”
Cambridge Anthropology
“The result of this scale-changing narrative is hemispheric history on a grand scale: elegant and erudite in its critique of dominant narratives.”
Sarah Mahler | Social Analysis
“In crafting this fuller story, Pedersen makes important theoretical insights about storytelling itself. . . . Pedersen’s prose stays closer to the ground, truer to how stories are invented and told than in the linear rendering we get after someone has analyzed the data, made the connections, and put everything in order. By the end of the book, the bigger picture does come into focus—at least it did for me—but it does so after an intellectual journey across different analytical scales, time periods, geographies, and so forth.”
Ann Stoler, author of Along the Archival Grain
“In this powerfully conceived and creatively crafted book, David Pedersen conveys and traces the condensed political and economic signs and substance of contemporary capitalism. The reader is wrapped tighter and tighter in the circuits of migration, entangled in the pacing of punctuated narratives that course through the writing, swept in and out of the shallows and depths of hemispheric histories that shape global capital and people’s lives. This is a transnational ethnography, an account of —and an accounting for—movement and arrest. Both the making of ‘value’ and abstraction as a historical process have rarely been treated with such an acute vision or written about in this way.”
Saskia Sassen, author of Territory, Authority, Rights
American Value is an extraordinary tracking of histories and geographies that makes visible the complexities of what we see as elementary or self-evident. Beyond research, it takes talent and imagination to detect the larger web of meanings at work in what is usually flattened into one persuasive description. David Pedersen has written a great book.”
Gustavo Verdesio, author of Forgotten Conquests
“There are many things about American Value that are truly impressive. David Pedersen’s Peirceian interpretation of Marx’s notion of value is a thought-provoking proposal, and he succeeds at laying bare the mechanisms of storytelling itself through a deconstruction of the hierarchies that determine which stories will be dominant and which will be marginal or buried. However, the highest achievement is Pedersen’s writing style, which develops an elegant, brilliant, and eloquent narrative to contradict and complicate the dominant one.”
Keith Hart, University of Pretoria
American Value is an original and ambitious book. Apart from his transnational subject—relations between El Salvador and the United States—David Pedersen seeks to throw light on how dominant interpretations of that history are generated and then overturned by the kind of in-depth analysis his research makes possible. The scope of his ambition is revealed by his insistence in grounding the account in individual lives while seeking to explore how public ideas are formed through literature, journalism, social science, military and police reports, speeches, letters, and oral testimony. If this were not enough, he aspires to throw light on the co-evolution of the US and Central America, including wars linking the two; and he has some theoretical axes to grind, as well.” 
Bill Maurer, author of Accelerating Possession
“David Pedersen’s remarkable book chronicles the shift in El Salvador from coffee to cotton to migration and remittances as the primary source of value and power, each wave leaving behind a sedimented history and concretized relations that give form to the next wave. Pedersen tells a nuanced story of how everyday people, caught up in situations of both mundane and geopolitical significance, translate value into unique expressions that then circulate as transnational signs and ciphers. A compelling narrative of transnational remittances and the origins and enduring legacies of El Salvador’s civil war, this is also a profound contribution to the semiotics of value.”
C. J. MacKenzie | Choice
“a creative interpretation of the history of migration and transnational flows. . . . Recommended.”
Contents
List of Characters
Preface

PROLOGUE

Introduction 

ONE A Roadmap for Remittances

PART I.

TWO Brushing against the Golden Grain
THREE Melting Fields of Snow
FOUR The Intrusion of Uncomfortable Wars, Illegals, and Remittances

PART II.

FIVE The Wealth of Pueblos
SIX Immigrant Entrepreneurship

PART III.

SEVEN Welcome to Intipucá City
EIGHT The World in a Park
 
FINALE

NINE Options and Models for the Future

Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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