Grant TypeFejos Postdoctoral Fellowship
Institutional AffiliationIndependent Scholar
Grant numberGr. 9889
Approve DateOctober 9, 2019
Project TitleOsband, Noam (Independent Scholar), "In the Pines: An Vérité Portrayal of American, Mexican, and Canadian Tree Planters:"
In the Pines is a documentary film portraying the lived experiences of North American reforestation workers. Other than an opening title card offering a definition of “liminality,” the film is completely vérité. There is much that links these different planters. They all do the same job, planting thousands of trees a day, and regular systems of time mean nothing as workers toil in isolation on large tracts of denuded land. Yet, as the film progresses, we see the style of planting and worker motivation differs for each group. For the American workers, most of who are college educated, this liminality is their own choice. They could find other work, but they enjoy the freedom and lifestyle migrant work affords them. By contrast, for the Mexican H-2B workers, their long-term liminality is a product of necessity, not to enable a rootless lifestyle but to secure land, build houses, and support families in Mexico. For the Canadian planters who are mostly college students, this work is a valuable rite of passage, one that teaches them a work ethic they can apply to their emerging adult lives. The contrast of these three groups shows how labor-based liminality is neither inherently problematic nor laudable, but its value is very much rooted in the specific subjectivity of the person living it.