Developing a Visual
Discourse on Immigration
To produce images is to produce identity.
Octavio Getino, La tercera mirada
Culture is the material site of struggle in which active links are made between signifying practices and social structure. … Because culture is the contemporary repository of memory, of history, it is through culture, rather than government, that alternative forms of subjectivity, collectivity, and public life are imagined.
Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts
Images on popular magazine covers provide an excellent window into issues of importance in a society. As artifacts of popular culture, magazine covers are ubiquitous yet seldom thought about, especially in a systematic way. 1 We casually glance at them in their neatly ordered rows as we shop for groceries or browse through them in bookstores and newsstands or choose among them as we wait in a doctor's or dentist's office. We often pause for a moment when a magazine cover catches our attention, then plunge quickly into the interior articles. And yet, despite our lack of attention, the images on magazine covers are not empty of meaning.
This analysis begins with a search for preliminary patterns in the material under study. The state of the economy appears to have influenced a pattern of timing and frequency of immigration-related magazine covers. As graph 2.1 indicates, periods of economic recession somewhat foreshadow a concern with immigration (Cornelius 1980). There have been five economic recessions of various lengths since 1965. 2 The first recession occurred between December 1969 and November 1970, as the Vietnam War–related inflation, taxes, and credit rates all went up. Between