President Donald Trump’s plan to construct a border wall has been greeted with widespread derision, but there is also pervasive unease at the environmental and human costs such a barrier would cause. Thousands of migrants have died seeking to cross the US border in recent years, and many more are victim to escalating violence within Mexico itself. The politics of migration has evolved significantly in recent years, and has become central to the anti-establishment protests and rhetoric that are challenging politicians in Washington DC and Mexico City alike. The shifts in migration rhetoric are matched by a continued evolution in how the border is understood and constructed in social debate.

This paper investigates how museums approach questions of violence, human rights and the border in the US and Mexico. More particularly, it explores the border as a place of vulnerability and as a shifting historical site at which communities are defined and their inclusion is debated. The paper focuses on six key museums in the US and Mexican border regions, as well as the countries’ capital cities. These sites range from well-funded state-run institutions to community-based volunteer museums.  The paper explores how these sites frame and discuss the border, as a means to explore human vulnerability, resilience and the experience of violence in contemporary society.

About the Presenter

Dr Robert Mason is a Lecturer in Migration and Security Studies at Griffith University. His research focusses on emotion and the legacies of violence in both migration and heritage. He is particularly interested in Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking communities in Asia, Australia and North America.

About Critical Approaches to Museums and Heritage

Critical Approaches to Museums & Heritage is a series of seminars where researchers and practitioners introduce recent work to a critical thinking audience. All are welcome to attend.


Level 1, Michie Building (#09), St Lucia campus
Anthropology Museum