Today’s post comes from Magdalena Ramos Mullane, class of 2022 and Art Center Student Docent. Raquel Rabinovich: The Reading Room was on view in the Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College from October 25 through December 20, 2018, and was funded by the Virginia Herrick Deknatel Fund
After World War Ⅱ, the number of border walls all over the world increases significantly. Nowadays the border situation between the US and Mexico is widely discussed, and a wall is actually in people’s envision. What are some border walls in other countries like? Do they all function as the prevention of illegal migrants and refugees?
Serving similar purpose with the wall between US and Mexico, the security at Calais port between France and UK prevents illegal migrants from entering the UK. The security is equipped with detection technologies, such as heartbeat and carbon dioxide detectors, and both countries funded together for a “control and command center”. One difference between Calais port and US border wall is that Calais port prevents the migration problem “at source”, with the aid of strict systems, while the US border wall exposes migrants into the potential danger in the desert. What’s more, between UK and France governments, there is a promoted joint agreement to determine if the migrants are accepted as asylum seekers, get detained or deported.
Another example is the fences in Europe. Hungary and Slovenia are two countries with the region’s largest expanse of fences. These border fences serve to prevent illegal migrants as well but face more religious issues than the one between US and Mexico. It is revealed that people living near these barriers often find that they serve little purpose and can be psychologically damaging. For example, children in the camp in village are scared of their proximity to the fence.
We are probably familiar with US president Trump’s use of the Great Wall in China as a comparison to his plans of building the wall. However, these two walls actually serve distinct purposes. The Great Wall was built to prevent exterior military incursion instead of as a security barrier. The construction of Great Wall started in 7th century BC, went through several dynasties, and finished in Ming dynasty. The Great Wall is not impregnable in Chinese history, so perhaps the border wall between US and Mexico will not be totally impregnable as well; moreover, according to Edward Alden, trade policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, increased enforcement efforts along the border may explain about 35 to 40 percent of the decline in illegal immigration flow.
Nowadays, the border wall that is actually similar to the Great Wall is probably the wall built by Saudi Arabia. The 600-mile-long wall in their northern frontier is built to prevent ISIS from attacking the oil-rich territory.
If the government is determined to use border wall to prevent migration, it might be better to set up an excellent system instead of exposing the migrants in danger in the desert. And even though the wall may serve well politically, we need to think about how to reduce the psychological effect it brings to people who live nearby.
2018 From 7 to 77: There’s been an explosion in building border walls since World War II. Electronic document,
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/05/24/border-walls-berlin-wall-donald-trump-wall/553250002/, accessed December 2, 2018
2016 Calais migrants: How is the UK-France border policed? Electronic document,
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-33267137, accessed December 2, 2018
2018 Trump isn’t the only one who wants to build a wall. These European nations already did. Electronic document,
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/05/24/donald-trump-europe-border-walls-migrants/532572002/, accessed December 2, 2018
Michelle Ye Hee Lee
2016 Why Trump’s comparison of his wall to the Great Wall of China makes no sense. Electronic document,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/03/08/why-trumps-comparison-of-his-wall-to-the-great-wall-of-china-makes-no-sense/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.972ab6dde511, accessed December 2, 2018
2015 Saudi Arabia Builds 600 Mile Wall to Keep Islamic State OUT! Electronic document,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG_m4LKOCBk, accessed December 2, 2018
The (Anthropological) Truth about Walls
The Trump Wall in Archaeological Perspective
As anthropologist Jason De León illustrates, “[a]rchaeology is about ‘trying to understand human behavior in the past through the study of what people leave behind’…[n]obody ever said the past had to be a thousand years ago” (Hartigan Shea 2018). When one hears the term ‘archaeology’, they may be tempted to think of the far past whereas it — as De León emphasizes — could refer to even one minute prior.
Today, immigration across the Mexico-United States border (into the United States) remains a prominent issue. De León has studied this area (specifically the Sonoran Desert where many migrants attempt to cross despite its gruesome conditions) in great depth. De León has been recognized by the MacArthur Foundation in 2017 for his expertise in “[c]ombining ethnographic, forensic, and archaeological evidence to bring to light the human consequences of immigration policy at the U.S.–Mexico border” (MacArthur Foundation 2017). Unsurprisingly, De León is one of the only people within the range of “archaeologists and material culture specialists” (Hamilakis 2016) to partake in this field.
On the Greek island of Lesvos, a similar situation with immigration is occurring. “[M]ore than 500,000 people crossed from Turkey, migrants and war refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as many other Asian and African countries, to [this] island with 85,000 permanent inhabitants” (Hamilakis 2016). In venturing to safer land, “[s]ome of [their] camps…can become substantial and highly organized structures despite their makeshift character, as [seen] in northern Greece” (Hamilakis 2016). These people make do with what little they have, setting up shop and moving onwards — these campsites becoming modern sites for archaeological investigation.
In regards to what immigrants jettison in regions like the Mediterranean and the Arizona desert, what is left behind “form[s] worthwhile topics for further reflection and study” (Hamilakis 2016), and a budding ‘branch’ of archaeology. By locating these abandoned objects, voices and identities are given to otherwise invisible immigrants. This growing problem of today mirrors the movement of past peoples and how they have been studied to understand why they left and where they went. However, currently — the time in which this is an issue — the world has the power to work to reach a logical solution. When looking through their belongings, one can see how these people, regarded as ‘invaders’ and ‘inconvenient’, are human. Understanding that these immigrants are giving up everything to head to safer places for acceptable livelihoods is crucial; they are leaving their past lives to stay alive.
Inevitably, there is no reason to disregard the people leaving their countries for our land of dreams, because they are just like the rest of us.
De León, Jason
2013 Undocumented migration, use wear, and the materiality of habitual suffering in the Sonoran Desert. Journal of Material Culture 18 (4): 321-345. doi:10.1177/1359183513496489.
2016 Being ‘there’: At the front line of the ‘European refugee crisis’ — part 1. Anthropology Today 32 (2): 5-9. doi:10.1111/1467-8322.12237.
2011 The Journey to El Norte. Archaeology, January/February. Accessed November 24, 2018. https://archive.archaeology.org/1101/features/border.html.
2017 NYC gallery displays migrants’ backpacks, belongings. The Washington Times, February 10. Accessed November 24, 2018. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/ feb/10/ny-gallery-displays-migrants-backpacks-belongings/.
2016 Archaeologies of Forced and Undocumented Migration. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 3 (2): 121-139. doi:10.1558/jca.32409.
Hartigan Shea, Rachel
2018 Immigration Archaeology: What’s Left at Border Crossings. National Geographic, August. Accessed November 24, 2018. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/08/embark-genius-jason-immigration-archaeology/.
2017 Jason De León. MacArthur Foundation, October 11. Accessed November 24, 2018. https://www.macfound.org/fellows/986/.
2016 Watch: Aerial footage of crowded migrant camp on Greece-Macedonia border. Telegraph Video, March 2. Accessed November 24, 2018. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/macedonia/12180807/Watch-Aerial-footage-of-crowded-migrant-camp-on-Greece-Macedonia-border.html.
2017 Migrant Belongings Art [image]. Associated Press. Accessed November 24, 2018. https://www.washingtontimes.com/multimedia/image/ap_migrants_ belongings_art_83724jpg/.
2016 Migrant Camp – Aerial [image]. Telegraph Video. Accessed November 24, 2018. https://secure.i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/03587/migrant-camp-aeria_3587034b.jpg.
This past week in class, we talked about the way in which archaeology can help people reflect on trauma and suffering of the past. I’m interested in the way archaeological records are employed in museums and memorials to emphasize past sufferings. An example that we talked about was Holocaust museums and how the collections of the items can invoke empathy and understanding about the sheer horror and quantity of that horror that happened half a century ago. What Edward Rothstein of the New York Times calls the “archaeology of trauma” can be seen in
Holocaust museums across the world (Rothstein). Special effects and simulations, and, more so on the archaeological front, collections of artifacts from the 6 million Jews who were murdered (United States Holocaust), work together to give a museum visitor an intense experience. Other memorials might list all the names of the people who lost their lives, if such records exist and are known. Growing up in Jewish day school for ten years, I’ve been to my fair share of Holocaust museums and memorials. I can say as a first hand spectator that looking at piles and piles of clothes, shoes, suitcases, jewelry pieces, or other various personal belongings from the archaeological record of the Holocaust shakes a person to the core. It gives you the physical objects to visualize the scale of the trauma and is incredibly effective at doing so.
Following the discussion of this topic in class, I became curious about how we then create this reflection on trauma if little remains from the archaeological record. What if there are no artifacts? No suitcases? No shoes? Nothing to point to the atrocity
that happened? These questions led me to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. This memorial, opened recently in 2018 and inspired by the Berlin Holocaust memorial, serves as a memorial for African American people who were murdered by lynching in this country throughout history (Robertson). This memorial / museum “embarked on a project to memorialize this history by visiting hundreds of lynching sites, collecting soil, and erecting public markers” (EJI). The memorial displays this collected soil, along with the names of those murdered and evocative art pieces that emphasize the historical racial injustice of this country. While we may not have the
most personal belongings of every person who was a victim of racial violence, we do have access to art, to names, and to the soil: the soil that was underneath when these murders happened. They provide the context for the history that happened. We can look at that soil and feel the horror of what it witnessed. The art provides our narrative. We can look at the art and feel the pain of what happened. I’ve been brought up with the understanding that objects are what gives a historical event its weight, but perhaps we should rethink that definition. Doing so might stop the erasure of historical trauma that cannot always be articulated through objects.
Additional reading on this topic:
For the Equal Justice Initiative’s piece and video about why building this memorial was important, click HERE.
For more images and a look inside the memorial, click HERE.
2018 EJI. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Electronic Document, https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/memorial , accessed November 19, 2018.
2018 . NYTimes. A Lynching Museum is Opening. Electronic Document, https:/www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/us/lynching-memorial-alabama.html , accessed November 19, 2018.
2012 . NYTimes. Holocaust Museums in Israel Evolve. Electronic Document, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/arts/design/israels-holocaust-museums-evolve-in-message-and-methods.html , accessed November 19, 2018.
2018 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution. Electronic Document, https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/documenting-numbers-of-victims-of-the-holocaust-and-nazi-persecution , accessed November 19, 2018.
Holocaust museum shoes – http://solotravelgirl.com/solitude-and-reflection-in-the-u-s-holocaust-memorial-museum/
National memorial for Peace and Justice – https://massdesigngroup.org/work/national-memorial-peace-and-justice
Jars of soil – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/us/lynching-memorial-alabama.html
Photo above: A boat wends its way through mangroves in the Everglades ecosystem. Phote credit to CARLTON WARD, JR
Photo Above: Cypress trees in the Everglades. Photo Credit to Terry Eggers.
The Everglades National Park in Florida is the only natural World Heritage site in America to land on the critically in danger list due to human population growth, development, invasive species and fertilizer drainage. As a Floridian I am saddened to learn this. I am also ashamed. I actually was not aware of this until learning it in class. I also was able to learn a lot more about the Everglades in my research for this post.
The Everglades National Park is listed as a World Heritage site, International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. (National Parks Service) It is also protected under the Cartagena treaty. The Cartagena requires that all parties part of the convention take measures to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems, and the habit of endangered species, within the convention zones. Their purpose is to prevent, control, and reduce pollution of these lands. (EPA)
Once the Everglades covered over 11,0000 square miles of Florida, from Orlando down to the tip of the peninsula. It is now only 2,500 square miles with 1800 miles of canals and dams breaking up the natural system, thanks to human population growth and development since the 20th century. It contains a very slow moving river, 60 miles wide and over 100 miles long. (Lillie Marshall 2011)
The Everglades variety of wet habitats have made a sanctuary for numerous rare and endangered species. The sea turtle, American Alligator, Florida panther, and Bald Eagle are among several endangered species dependent on the ecosystem the Everglades provide. (Everglades Holiday Park Blog 2015) If the ecosystem were to continue to encroached upon and destroyed then many or all of these species would die out.
In addition to the animals and plants that depend on the land, the Native American Seminole tribe also depend on the land. Native people have inhabited the Everglades for thousands of years, and the Seminole tribe depends on the healthy ecosystem for survival. Traditional cultural, religious, and recreational activities, as well as commercial endeavors are dependent on the Everglades. Tribal members believe that if the land dies, so will they, because their identity is so closely linked. (Seminole Tribe of Florida)
Archaeologists are helping to protect and restore this ecosystem. By looking at the archaeological record, they are able to observe and interpret lifestyle changes made by inhabitants as a result of the changing climate and landscape that occurred. This type of information can be useful to scientists and engineers working to restore an environment impacted as dramatically as the Everglades. (Thomas, 2013)
There are many other programs set up to help protect and restore the everglades. The Seminole tribe has the Seminole Everglades Restoration Initiative to improve water quality, storage capacity, and to enhance hydroperiods. Congress had passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to restore, protect and preserve 18,000 square miles of land over 16 Florida counties. The National Park Service website also has many ways to contribute. Let us save this ecosystem and preserve it.
Links to Everglade restorative programs.
“Cartagena Convention and Land-Based Sources Protocol.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 6 Dec. 2017, www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/cartagena-convention-and-land-based-sources-protocol.
“Culture.” Seminole Tribe of Florida – Culture, www.semtribe.com/Culture/SeminolesandtheLand.aspx.
“Everglades National Park (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm.
“Everglades Wildlife: Threatened and Endangered.” Everglades Holiday Park, 5 Mar. 2015, www.evergladesholidaypark.com/Everglades-wildlife-threat/.
Marshall, Lillie. “Danger and Glory in Everglades National Park of Florida.” Around the World “L”, 26 Oct. 2011, www.aroundtheworldl.com/2011/07/26/danger-and-glory-in-everglades-national-park-of-florida/.
Thomas, Cynthia. “Archaeologists Help Preserve the Past, Link to the Future.” Jacksonville District, U.S Army Corps of Engineers, 19 June 2013, www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Stories/Article/479638/archaeologists-help-preserve-the-past-link-to-the-future/
UNESCO World Heritage Centre. “Everglades National Park.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre, whc.unesco.org/en/list/76.