Anthropology and Ethnography

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In this ethnography, Seth Holmes makes use of the concepts of structural violence and symbolic violence. How does he explain every of these terms? How do these two types of violence work together? How do they produce suffering and its invisibility?
Structural violence refers to a kind of abuse wherein some social framework, or social organizations may additionally impact some people in the neighborhood deleteriously by making it hard for them to meet their fundamental needs. They comprise adultism, elitism, ethnocentrism, sexism, as well as ageism. It is the main cause of the many premature deaths that are being realized in the neighborhood today. Since the social violence affects people in another way from one society then it always closely related with social injustice. It has also been connected with domestic violence, gender discrimination, ethnic crimes, police crimes, war, and even terrorism.

On the other hand, Symbolic violence is a form of mild, unseen, and pervasive force that is carried out through cognition, knowledge, and speech, most of the time with the no permission or cooperation of the nominated individual. It is most of the time related to the male domination, and the women are meant to face the consequences of the violence. The prevalence of symbolic violence gives much attention to the structural as well as the direct violence. It is hard to refute the fact that the two forms of crime coexist and tend to promote each other. For instance, the broken social frameworks that result to structural violence will ultimately lead in the same community to have high levels of symbolic crime as those who are in power will always work out ways of oppressing the poor in the city or making their lives to be difficult.

In Seth’s literary work, Holmes claims that, structural violence and its adverse impacts on health and symbolic violence and its subtle means of naturalizing the inequities of the farm, press, and health organizations, all form the core unit of crime as well as suffering through which the phenomenon of the migrant labor in North America is developed (Holmes, 2013: 44). From this sentiment by Holmes, it is apparent to everyone reading it that both structural violence, as well as the symbolic violence all, have adverse effects on the lives of the people in the society. The structural violence result in the rise of inequities in the community thereby making some of the people in different parts of the world. There is also the scene where Holmes gives a case of Bernardo’s Stomach pain which he says to be rooted deeply in the “social as well as political forces” (Holmes, 2003: 107). It is from this that we get the picture of the racial discriminative environment that the people in the firm were put through as the doctors in the hospitals symbolically attacked them as they had a greater understanding of the migrant health and there told them that they should take care of their illness through their primary techniques. This served as the directing forces to the poor treatment of the workers which in turn results in most of them losing their lives quickly as compared to the other races as well as the culture of the elites and the whites in North America.

Holme’s also acknowledges that it is the broken social framework that was contributing to the suffering that the people were going through in the land. In proving this he says, ““How would the role of health care professionals look if we took our call seriously to relieve and prevent suffering while also remembering the structural forces fundamentally producing the suffering?” (Holmes, 2013: 193). This implies that structural factors such as classism and racism contributed considerably to the way the health experts were treating or committing symbolic violence to the migrants in the hospitals. This just proves that the structural factors played a pivotal role in promoting symbolic violence towards the poor and the other races that were among the migrants.

Critically discuss how Holmes conducted his ethnographic fieldwork. Identify two of the innovative methods that he used. What are two critical outcomes from his ethnography? What have you learned about cultural anthropology by reading this book?

Holmes used interviews in collecting vital information to use in making conclusions that are presented in this excellent piece of writing that he is offering to us readers. This can be seen from the quote “migrants he interviewed showed their detachment to pain in certain fields, while yet others showed that they hurt over since they started laboring” (Holmes, 2013: 89). This implies that he had to meet in person with his participants so that he could be sure of the exact way that he was to handle the study so that he could get reliable information to help him reach at the right conclusion about the topic under investigation. It is also from the same quote that we learn that the violence that was being posed to the laborers was biased basing on the fact that some of the claimed to have started facing the suffering from the time they got to the farms while other were emotionless to the pain that they were meant to meet in the fields. From the same quote, we learn that Holmes must have sampled the group of people to be used in answering the various questions that he had about the topic of violence among the laborers who were majorly made up of the migrants. It is from the perfect sampling that he managed to get reliable respondents that would only offer information that would give the best information that would satisfy the need to get useful information that would help them to get the best information.

By reading the book by Seth, I have come to learn that in the world today social organization play a pivotal role in the propagation of various types of crimes or violence in the society. For instance, I have learned that racism, as well as classism, played a pivotal role in the creation of physical abuse to the workers in the fields, and in the hospitals it resulted in the workers being given poor services by the health professionals who believed that they did not deserve to be given such treatment owing to their position in the community. Moreover, I have learned that social structures played a pivotal role in making the life of the people to be difficult in the firm as the laborers who were poor were being mishandled by the elites or the rich in the community they were living.


Holmes, S. (2013). Fresh fruit, broken bodies: Migrant farmworkers in the United States (Vol. 27). Univ of California Press.

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