Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Priya Chandrasekaran recently published an article in the Journal of Rural Studies. “Remaking ‘the people’: Immigrant farmworkers, environmental justice and the rise of environmental populism in California’s San Joaquin Valley” examines dueling forms of rural populism coming to a head the San Joaquin Valley.
Chandrasekaran said that although California is now a reliably blue state, this inland region — also an agribusiness and oil industry stronghold — has remained politically conservative, with the majority of the region’s votes going to Donald Trump in 2016. This is in part, she noted, because many immigrant farmworkers, whose labor sustains California’s economy, cannot vote.
Yet, in the small city of Arvin, Chandrasekaran said, the tide turned in 2016 when José Gurrola, the progressive son of farmworkers, won the mayoral election.
In her article, Chandrasekaran looks at how this victory was achieved, and the important role environmental justice organizing and demographic shifts played in making it happen. She also explores why and how environmentalism, rather than identity politics, is becoming a framework for racial and farmworker justice movements.