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Hidden Talent

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Through an examination of building practices in the U.S. and Mexico, my collaborator, Nichola Lowe (UNC-Chapel Hill), and I ask how migrants in the construction industry move tacit knowledge across borders, how they reinterpret it in new contexts, and how they use it to challenge and amend the political structures they encounter. We find that understandings of material processes are deeply political, with implications for labor politics, industrial policy, and urban planning and design. Migrant workers use processes of tacit skill transformation to cultivate new sources of political power. In ways that were both subversive and strategic, they use the meanings they develop through their reinterpretation of materials and building structures to improve working conditions and production processes, to repurpose industry institutions, and to develop new forms of local and transnational solidarity.

Iskander, N. and N. Lowe. 2021. “Turning Rules into Resources: Worker Enactment of Labor Standards Beyond Compliance and Why It Matters for Regulatory Federalism.” Industrial Labor Relations Review.  March 2.

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Lowe, N. and N. Iskander. 2016. “Power Through Problem Solving: Latino Immigrants and the Inconsistencies of Economic Restructuring.” Population, Space and Place. 4(7): 23-37

Iskander, N., C. Riordan, and N. Lowe. 2013. “Learning in Place: Immigrant Spatial and Temporal Strategies for Occupational Advancement.” Economic Geography.  Economic Geography. 89 (1): 53-75.

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Iskander, N. and N. Lowe.  2013. “Building Job Quality from the Inside-Out: Immigrants, Skill, and Jobs in the Construction Industry.” Industrial Labor Relations Review. 66(4): 785-807.

Lowe, N., J. Hagan, and N. Iskander. 2010. “Revealing Talent: Informal Skills Intermediation as an Emergent Pathway to Immigrant Labor Market Incorporation.”  Environment and Planning A. 42(3): 205-222

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Iskander, N., N. Lowe, and C. Riordan.  2010. “The Rise and Fall of a Micro-Learning Region: Mexican Immigrants and Construction in Center-South Philadelphia.” Environment and Planning A. 42(7): 1595-1612         

Iskander, N. and N. Lowe. 2010. “Hidden Talent: Tacit Skill Formation and Labor Market Incorporation of Latino Immigrants in the United States.”  Journal of Planning Education and Research. 30(2): 132-146

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Additional publications


Iskander, N. and N. Lowe. 2018. “Immigration and the Politics of Skill.”  In Clark, G., M. Feldman, and M. Gertler, eds.  The New Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Iskander, N. and N. Lowe. 2016. “The Transformers: Immigration and Tacit Knowledge Development.” In K. Elsbach and B. Bechky, eds. Qualitative Organizational Research - Volume 3. Charlotte NC: Information Age Publishing.

Iskander, N. and N. Lowe. 2013.  “Moving Skill: The Incorporation of Mexican Immigrants in the US and Mexican Construction Industries.” In Y. Kutznetsov, ed. How Talent Abroad Supports Growth, Innovation and Institutional Development at Home.  Washington D.C.: World Bank.

Iskander, N. and N. Lowe.  2012. “The Politics of Skill.”  Immigration Policy Center – American Immigration Council. Washington, D.C.

Lowe, N. and Iskander, N. 2011.  “Beyond the Wal-martization of Immigration.” Institute for the Study of the Americas.”  University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Iskander, N. and N. Lowe. 2011. “Toward a New Model of Transnational Labor Governance: Training and Skills Certification.” Report prepared for the Migration Policy Institute.

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