Mounring as Resistance

Mourning as Resistance:
Seeing and Hearing
the Borderlands
Vistas de la Frontera

Under the 1994 policy Prevention through Deterrence (PTD), thousands of migrants have died crossing the Sonora Desert of Southern Arizona. PTD solidified borders along urban areas and forced migrants into hostile and inhumane conditions with the intent of deterring more people from coming. The result is hundreds of deaths and disappearances every year. These deaths receive little attention as the U.S. government refuses to take responsibility and has continually moved to heighten the effects of border policies in spite of migrant deaths. Consequently, turning to the work of memorials allows individuals to honor those who have died and to recognize the effects of state power on migrants crossing the border. My project, Vistas de la Frontera, combines new technologies with ideas about space/place and memorial. Through Vistas de la Frontera I memorialize individuals who have died trying to cross the border. The piece breaks the silences placed upon migrants and calls for collective mourning.

Vistas de la Frontera is an interactive digital piece that utilizes 360 video to honor, memorialize, and mourn for those who have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The videos bring forth the realities of desert space as lively, shifting, and deadly by viewing the recovery sites of different people. Each video has the person’s name clearly visible as part of the landscape—showing the interconnection between policy, the environment, and migrant bodies. By using 360 video I invite users to interact with the space – to see and hear the various areas where migrants move. Created as a public humanities work, Vistas de la Frontera shows how the borderlands environment has been deliberately used against border crossers. Making these spaces visible highlights how American immigration policy relies on remote spaces to erase and hide migrant movement and death, leaving thousands unmourned. As such, mourning the deaths of border crossers is an acknowledgement of the violence the border perpetuates. By remembering the names of the dead and continuously seeing where they were recovered, mourning becomes a sites of resistance to state-violence. More specifically, mourning refuses the attempted dehumanization that happens along the border and instead insists on recognizing each person as a life worthy of recognition. Vistas de la Frontera is meant to facilitate the work of mourning by inviting users to grieve for those lost and recognize the reality facing migrants in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

is an Assistant Professor of English at the United States Naval Academy. She recently finished her PhD in Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Pittsburgh where she was the recipient of the Mellon-funded Immersive Dissertation Research Fellowship. Her research focuses on migration, mourning, and borderlands environments. Her work can be found in Lateral: Journal of the Cultural Studies Association and MAST: The Journal of Media Art Study and Theory.