Apr 8, 2024

NYAS Lecture, April 8th: The U.S.-Mexico Border as Political Theater

On Monday, April 8th, 2024 the New York Academy of Sciences will host, "The U.S.-Mexico Border as Political Theater," presented by Professor Leo Chavez with comments offered by Professor Alyshia Gálvez.
  • New York Academy of Sciences


Contemporary political rhetoric on immigration frequently uses metaphors of war: “crisis,” “invasions,” “enemies,” “under siege,” and “surveillance.” As metaphors, they may draw our attention to “something happening” in our world, but they can also be misleading, altering our perceptions and distorting our understanding of events. Metaphors of war can thus lead to questionable actions, such as those currently taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border. In this talk I walk back contemporary political discourse to provide some historical context for the border as a source of political theater, which has consistently used photo ops and media spectacles to create a sense of “crisis.” As spectacles of surveillance, photo ops, walls made of shipping containers, giant buoys, barbed wire, and buses loaded with migrants, are public performances to sway public opinion on a “crisis” that has been part of public discourse for decades. Long after any particular politician’s political life waxes and wanes, these images will remain an indelible part of our nation’s history. Migrants were the subjects in these spectacles. They were used to generate media attention in a political struggle over immigration policy, while at the same time masking the humanitarian crisis at the border. If there is an “immigration crisis,” is not decades of Congressional inaction on immigration reform and political infighting partly to blame? Lacking from border spectacles are agreements about solutions, such as finding ways for millions of undocumented immigrants to regularize their status, preparing for the demographic realities that create a demand for immigrant labor, and providing a rational and humane asylum process. Rather, the theatrics of a border in “crisis” and immigrant “invasions” maintain the status quo, which is very productive and useful for some politicians.

Where: The New York Academy of Sciences
115 Broadway, Eighth Floor
New York, NY 10006
(corner of Broadway and Cedar Street, just south of Zuccotti Park) and simultaneously ONLINE via zoom.

When: April 8, 2024
6-7:00 p.m. Community Dinner
7-8:30 p.m. Distinguished Lecture and Discussion