College of Arts and Sciences

Weiner"Scrambled Pictures: Mexico in the American Imagination"

Richard Weiner
Professor in the Department of History
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

Friday, February 12th, 2016
Walb Classic Ballroom



This talk was inspired by Donald Trump’s discourse last fall about Mexico which in some ways is nothing new, but perhaps not in the way that first may come to mind. Trump’s discourse, while of course building on xenophobic antecedents, is not new in another sense: the United States has a long history of fixation on Mexico, one that goes all the way back to the age of independence. Thus, Trump’s discourse builds on a long history of America’s preoccupation with Mexico. Today, and historically, America has not been nearly as focused on its northern neighbor as its southern neighbor. What accounts for this obsession with Mexico? This is one of the questions that this talk, which traces the evolution of American discourse about Mexico over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, attempts to answer. This question invariably leads to another that will also be addressed in the talk: what has been the nature of American depictions of Mexico? The answer to this question is complicated, inspiring the title of the talk: “Scrambled Pictures.” Of course, much of the discourse has reflected America’s notion of its superiority and dominance over Mexico. Nevertheless, this does not alter the fact that there were (and are) multiple images of Mexico in American discourse that didn’t create a coherent whole. Thus, if Trump’s obsession with Mexico isn’t novel, privileging his characterization Mexico (a depiction that, admittedly, has been dominant in recent history) obscures the jumbled and complex picture of Mexico that is created by considering the multitude of American portrayals of its southern neighbor. 


Richard Weiner earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of California–Irvine in 1999, and began his academic career at IPFW in 2000. He is professor and chair of IPFW’s Department of History, and also serves as associate editor of reviews for Enterprise and Society. His research is on Mexican intellectual and cultural history, especially economic and social development. Mexican and Latin American globalization is a related research and teaching field, a concentration related to his Distinguished Lecturer presentation. He has published monographs, articles, and chapters. His most recent publications include a coauthored book, El mito de una riqueza proverbial (UNAM, 2015) and a book chapter titled “Mexico and Central America” in The Routledge Handbook to the History of Global Economic Thought (2015). He presents regularly at national and international conferences, and his research has been supported by internal and external grants from organizations including the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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