Border Tunnels: A Media Theory of the U.S.-Mexico Underground

Forthcoming from University of Minnesota Press in November 2023.

Pre-order website.

Book Description

Border tunnels at the U.S.–Mexico border are ubiquitous in news, movies, and television, yet, because they remain hidden and inaccessible, the public can encounter them only through media. Analyzing the technologies, institutional politics, narrative tropes, and aesthetic decisions that go into showing border tunnels across multiple forms of media, Juan Llamas-Rodriguez argues that we cannot properly address border issues without attending to—and fully understanding—the fraught relationship between their representation and reality.

Llamas-Rodriguez reveals that every media text about border tunnels, whether meant for entertainment, cable news, video games, or speculative design, implicitly takes a position on the politics of the border. The examples laid out in Border Tunnels will teach readers how to look differently at the border as it is commonly presented in various forms of media, from ABC’s Nightline and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360º to reality TV, propaganda videos, and even digital effects in Hollywood action films. Llamas-Rodriguez examines how creative decisions in the production, promotion, and distribution of these media texts either emphasize or downplay issues such as border security, racial dynamics of migration, and sustainability of the borderlands.

Focusing on tunnels to show how media representations can influence all kinds of audiences—even those physically near the border—Border Tunnels helps us make sense of this pressing social issue, ultimately advancing understanding of the U.S.–Mexico border in all of its complexity and precariousness.