This dissertation investigates how the aggressive implementation of neoliberal policies and practices in the agrarian sector of the Chilean economy from the late 1970s onwards has affected the ways in which female workers in the fruit industry navigate a labor regime marked by instability, high seasonal unemployment during the winter months, and structural constraints of the political and economic arenas in which they live. Specifically, it is concerned with how female seasonal workers (temporeras), who constitute seventy percent of the agribusiness workforce, reconfigure their notions of personhood and create contested spaces as they enter and leave the fragmented agribusiness labor cycle in Chile's Aconcagua Valley. It explores the articulations between the inherently unequal structures created by the neoliberal policies and practices of both the government and the agribusinesses of the Aconcagua Valley; the ways in which the state, agribusiness, and the workers themselves deploy notions of citizenship and responsibility; and the forms of negotiations employed by female workers as they forge social identities and quotidian practices during the fragmented labor cycle.
With the understanding that the expressions of neoliberalism are both varied and contested, the dissertation approaches the analysis dialectically. The first domain considers how the neoliberal policies and practices underpinning Chile's fruit export industry were implemented in the early 70s and reinforced after the transition to democracy in the early 90s. Second, the research gives voice to the temporeras as they engage with enabling and disabling attributes of flexibility, forging their personhood while confronting varying constructions of morality, sexuality, and citizenship in the work environment and national discourse. Third, the dissertation examines how female workers respond to disciplinary practices in the packing plants, employ technologies of self, and engage in strategies of making do throughout the winter months, frequently recurring to debt as a way of making ends meet.