Mellon Forum: Migration Detention, Incarceration, and the Spatial Imagination

Apr 22, 2019, 12:00 pm12:00 pm
School of Architecture, South Gallery


Event Description

"Migration Detention, Incarceration, and the Spatial Imagination"

April 22 / 12pm / SoA South Gallery

Sarah Lopez, University of Texas at Austin

Meredith TenHoor, Princeton Mellon Fellow

What role does—and can—the architecture of migrant detention play in immigration policy, migrant experience, and political discourse? How can a historic accounting of building detention space reframe current debates about so-called migrant criminality and the normalization of the incarceration of migrant men, women and children? This talk explores these themes through the specific history of building detention space in Texas from the 1960s, when the state had two publicly run detention facilities to the current moment defined by over 30 detention centers and immigration prisons and undergoing a construction bonanza. Mapping the growth of Texas’ detention infrastructure in relation to changing immigration policy and the privatization of incarceration throughout the second half of the twentieth century reveals the absence of a comprehensive vision for immigrant detention as distinct from the U.S. penal system, normalizing the use of “non-normative” prison environments for America’s newest arrivals. It also raises startling questions about who is actually designing U.S. immigration policy.

Sarah Lopez, a built environment historian and migration scholar, is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Lopez' book entitled, The Remittance Landscape: The Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban USA (University of Chicago Press, 2015) received the Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 2017. It addresses the impact of migrant remittances—dollars earned in the U.S. and sent to families and communities in Mexico—on the architecture and landscape of rural Mexico. Currently, she is researching two projects. The first addresses the architecture of immigrant detention facilities in Texas, and is an outgrowth of her collaboration with the Humanities Action Lab’s States of Incarceration exhibit. She is also examining the relationship between thirty years of continuous migration between Mexico and the US and the development of an informal binational construction industry on both sides of the border.

The Spring 2019 Mellon Forum is organized by Princeton Mellon Fellows Nasser Abourahme and Noam Shoked. The Forum is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional support from the Humanities Council, Center for Collaborative History, Program in Judaic Studies, Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, Program in American Studies, Program in African Studies, and the departments of Art & Archaeology and Near Eastern Studies. Events are free and open to the public.