Ethnographic Study Looks at Mexican Migrants

Posted: February 15, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Chrisi West

Debra Shutika
Debra Shutika

As part of the tenure process, faculty members at Mason usually publish a book or set of articles in their field of study. Debra Lattanzi Shutika, assistant professor in the Department of English, is publishing several chapters of her forthcoming book. The chapters are even being translated into Spanish as part of a 200-year anniversary celebration of the founding of a village in Mexico.

Shutika, who has been a faculty member since 2001, received her PhD in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania after earning a master’s in American literature from George Mason in 1993.

It was during her studies in Philadelphia that she came across a large community of Mexican migrants. She became interested in how the newly reformed immigration laws had encouraged this type of mass movement and the effects of migration on both the migrant and home communities.

Shutika began writing “Fueron al Norte y volvieron: la peregrinación de return” (“Beyond the Borderlands”) as an ethnographic study of Mexico migrants in Kennett Square, Pa., and Mexico. While she was working on the book, she was approached by some of her sources about speaking with other scholars at the 200th anniversary of the Mexican village.

Working with a translator since last fall, Shutika has translated the second half of her book into Spanish and edited it to be more accessible to a general audience. Local historians and experts in Mexico reviewed her work and decided to publish it. She was able to get feedback from the community she was working with – an opportunity most writers never receive – while signing books in Mexico over winter break.

Shutika said about 100 people came to her presentation and represented the essence of the community she was writing about. Their consensus was that her work on their community was appreciated, because they felt that they were not considered full members of their community. They saw her book as a contribution to local knowledge.

Shutika hopes to finish her book this summer and have it hit the shelves next year. A study on international migration (Americans who retire in Mexico) will be the focus of her second book.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different format in CASconnection.

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