Liliana Goldín, Ph.D. joined the McSilver Institute and the NYU Silver School of Social Work in September 2011. Dr. Goldín has conducted multiple projects surrounding labor options, attitudes toward the economy, and participation of Maya indigenous peoples in industrial work. These projects have been rooted in Dr. Goldin’s passion to study Maya culture and the ways in which globalization processes have affected the lives of indigenous peoples. She is currently working on a study of youth employment options in the central highlands of Guatemala. The study analyzes labor practices among workers between the ages of 16 to 25 and documents the strategies that Maya youth are pursuing to provide for themselves and their families, yielding an in-depth view of the range of economic options available that often are obscured by aggregate country statistics.
Her research and work are significant contributions to the larger field of poverty studies. In a recent article published in Latin American Research Review (2011) entitled “Labor Turnover among Maquiladora Workers of Highland Guatemala: Resistance and Semiproletarianization in Global Capitalism,” she explored two forms of turnover, involuntary, where workers are dismissed due to factory closings or a management decision to terminate employment, and “voluntary,” where workers quit (for a variety of reasons). This form of turnover is typically temporary, with workers returning to factory work within a few months. She found that young Guatemalan indigenous workers often pursue turnover as a form of resistance to the exploitative conditions in export-processing factories (maquilas). Even though the workers are struggling with poverty and limited employment opportunities, turnover affords them some control over their lives by providing them with breaks from exploitative conditions in the factories. Younger as opposed to older men and women comprise most of the work force in the factories. The study also explored unequal gender dynamics in Maya households and the ways in which industrial work results in higher status and respect for young women but also prevents them from furthering their education. Voluntary turnover serves women by providing a necessary break from hard work, but it hurts women by reducing their attained higher status in their homes. The study documents the complex processes that result from the insertion of rural areas of Guatemala in the global economy. Goldín concludes that by providing a sense of control and an outlet for resistance, work in the maquilas coupled with strategic turnover strategies by youth allows youth a taste of modernity without full proletarianization.
On a practical level, Dr. Goldín is interested in raising awareness of the conditions that generate global industrial production. “I hope that my work can increase awareness and result in educating consumers about the labor conditions of workers in the most impoverished areas of the world producing the clothes we purchase from US retail stores like Macy’s, JC Penney, and Walmart,” stated Goldín.