Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation

Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation

Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation

Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation


On October 17, 1994, "The Nation "ran the headline "The Immigration Wars" on its cover over an illustration showing the western border of the United States with a multitude of people marching toward it. In the foreground, the Statue of Liberty topped by an upside-down American flag is joined by a growling guard dog lunging at a man carrying a pack. The magazine's coverage of emerging anti-immigrant sentiment shows how highly charged the images and texts on popular magazine covers can be. This provocative book gives a cultural history of the immigration issue in the United States since 1965, using popular magazine covers as a fascinating entry into a discussion of our attitudes toward one of the most volatile debates in the nation.

Leo Chavez gathers and analyzes over seventy cover images from politically diverse magazines, including "Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, The New Republic, The Nation, "and "American Heritage. "He traces the connections between the social, legal, and economic conditions surrounding immigration and the diverse images through which it is portrayed.

"Covering Immigration "suggests that media images not only reflect the national mood but also play a powerful role in shaping national discourse. Drawing on insights from anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies, this original and perceptive book raises new questions about the media's influence over the public's increasing fear of immigration.


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 . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.