Virginia R. Dominguez
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Walls, Material and Rhetorical:
Past, Present, and Future

Abstract: An introduction to this special issue of RIAS on walls, in light of President Trump’s proposal to build a tall and beautiful wall along the US-Mexico border and the multiple concerns it raises, this essay, like this issue of RIAS as a whole, provides comparative background on walls built at different times in the past and in different locations around the world, exploring their intended efficacy and questionable results, their transformation over time into sites of tourism, uncertain peace, and unstable truces.  Raising questions about both rhetoric and materiality, it suggests that the matter does not just concern Trump’s views and policies but, rather, much more general views in the US toward Mexico and Mexicans. The essay raises the specters of both racism and imperialism in the rhetoric and proposals coming from the White House, and it seeks to use contributions from scholars in Italy, Israel, Mexico, the U.S., Hungary, South Korea, Denmark, and Canada to put it all in broader perspective.

Keywords: Trump’s proposed wall, introduction, rhetoric, polls, comparisons


Trump’s proposed wall; introduction; rhetoric; polls; comparisons

Comparative American Studies, Vol. 15, No-1-2, 2017.

Eveleigh, Darcy, “What History Teaches Us about Walls,” New York Times online, May 2016.

Gramlich, John. “Trump Voters Want to Build the Wall, but Are More Divided on Other Immigration Questions.” Pew Research Center, 29 Nov., 2016,

Published : 2018-06-30

DominguezV. (2018). Introduction. Review of International American Studies, 11(1). Retrieved from

Virginia R. Dominguez
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign USA  United States

Virginia R. Dominguez (Ph.D. 1979 Yale U.) is Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Co-Founder and Consulting Director of the International Forum for U.S. Studies (established in 1995) and co-editor of its book series, Global Studies of the United States, her most recent books are the coedited America Observed: On an International Anthropology of the United States (Berghahn Books, 2017) and Global Perspectives on the U.S. (U of Illinois Press, 2017).  A political and legal anthropologist, she was president of the American Anthropological Association from 2009 to 2011, editor of American Ethnologist from 2002 to 2007, and president of the AAA’s Society for Cultural Anthropology from 1999 to 2001.

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