Javier Auyero & Caitlyn Collins

Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City  is the focus of this week’s show, as we talk with the book’s editor, Javier Auyero and co-author, Caitlyn Collins.

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javier auyero Javier Auyero  Ph.D. is the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowed Professor in Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin in the New School for Social Research where he directs the Urban Ethnography Lab. His main areas of research, writing and teaching are poverty and marginality, political ethnography, and urban violence.

The award-winning sociologist is the author of several books, including the award-winning,  Flammable. Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown, co-authored with Débora Swistun. He is also the editor of  Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City.

The book is getting great reviews across the board including Kirkus Reviews, and even received the coveted starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.  Invisible in Austin will also be featured at this weekend’s Texas Book Festival.

In our famous upwardly-mobile, fast-growing, high-tech, and also economically-segregated city of Austin, the circumstances of everyday people are sometimes swept aside in our consciousness, and the fact that their lives have value.  Javier Auyero put together Invisible in Austin to try and help change that.

In Invisible in Austin, Auyero and a team of 12 graduate students explore the lives of those working at the bottom of the social order: house cleaners, office-machine repairers, cab drivers, restaurant cooks and dishwashers, exotic dancers, musicians, and roofers, among others.

wotacaitlyn collinsCaitlyn Collins is the author of the book’s chapter, “Raven: The Difference Between a Cocktail Waitress and a Stripper? Two Weeks.”

Caitlyn Collins  received her BA in Sociology from Whitman College, and is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology and a Graduate Fellow in the Urban Ethnography Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. She studies gender, work, and family dynamics cross-nationally, and is interested in the ways social policies both help and hinder social inequalities.

Invisible in AustinPublished by the University of Texas Press in 2015,  Invisible in Austin was born from a 2012 graduate seminar on poverty and marginality in the Americas in the school’s Sociology Department. Many graduate students were disturbed by the way that the lives of persons living at the bottom of the socio-symbolic ladder were represented in many academic texts, in which entire and diverse groups of the urban poor were reduced to a handful of leaping portrayals, such as single mother, sex worker, welfare recipient, and drug dealer.

Considering the students’ doubts about the accuracy of the academic information and how well researchers actually knew the people they were representing, and inspired by the eye-opening, one-on-one interviews with ordinary folks in Pierre Bourdieu’s The Weight of the World, Auyero had the idea that the group of graduate students could similarly explore the social suffering in Austin.

Recounting their subjects’ life stories with empathy and sociological insight, the authors of Invisible in Austin show us how these lives are driven by a complex mix of individual and social forces.

We are looking forward to talking to Javier Auyero and  Caitlyn Collins on Wednesday, and we hope you’ll join us. See you on the radio!