Accepted Paper:

Walls--past, present, and future  


Virginia Dominguez (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will shed comparative light on Donald Trump's proposal to build a tall, beautiful, and immigrant-repelling wall on the long border between Mexico and the U.S. and it will explore the appeal of such a wall among his supporters

Paper long abstract:

Donald Trump's proposal to build a high, beautiful, and immigrant-repelling wall on the border between Mexico and the US invites many questions, but the one I address here is how such a wall---in its physical, three-dimensional form---is likely to fare, given similar efforts elsewhere in the world, at various moments in the past or even the contemporary moment.

Walls are part of the built environment and are usually associated with housing. But they have also often been used by governments to keep people out (such as the Great Wall of China) and sometimes even to keep people in (such as the Berlin Wall).

That several remnants of past walls have now become tourist attractions or pilgrimage sites (from Hadrian's Wall in Scotland/England to the KotelWailing Wall in Jerusalem) says something about the continuing appeal of such walls, at least to a sector of the US population, even in an era of heavy air travel and Internet usage. But what is that appeal, is it just (or mostly) symbolic, and is it based on lack of knowledge of how these walls worked (or didn't work as planned) in the past?

This paper examines cases that preceded Trump's proposal and his supporters' interest in it. All concern walls built to define insiders and outsiders, defend empires from their perceived enemies, and block the movement of people from locations seen as less prosperous or reliable to those seen as more prosperous and reliable.

Panel RM-SPK08
Talking like a state: political narrative in everyday life