Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation

By Leo R. Chavez | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 1
Introductio
Discourses on Immigration and the Nation

A national culture is a discourse—a way of constructing meanings which influences and organizes both our actions and our conception of ourselves. National cultures construct identities by producing meanings about “the nation” with which we can identify; these are contained in the stories which are told about it, memories which connect its present with its past, and images which are constructed of it.

Stuart Hall, “Question of Cultural Identity”

Americans are not a narrow tribe, our blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one.

Herman Melville

On 5 July 1976, Time magazine published an issue celebrating the nation's bicentennial birthday. The cover image was a mosaic of words printed in red, white, and blue, with the bold text “The Promised Land” forming a protective semicircle above the text “America's New Immigrants. Inside the magazine was another mosaic of images made from photographs of immigrants from different periods in U. S. history and from different countries. Time's 1976 birthday issue was an affirmative rendition of “the nation of immigrants” theme that is a central part of the story America tells about its history and national identity.

On 17 October 1994, the cover of the Nation told a different story about immigration. Its cover text proclaimed “The Immigration Wars. The cover is a collage of overlapping images. The central image appears to be the western border of the United States on the circular globe of the earth as seen from space. To the left of the continental border, where the Pacific Ocean would normally fill in the rest of the globe, is a multitude

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