What others are saying about Why Walls Won’t Work

Over the past decade Dear traveled the entire length of the 3,000-mile-long borderline on both sides. His photographs and on-the-ground observations are complemented with meticulously researched historical details about who passed through the borderland landscape.

What gives the book a depth and punch that is often lacking in other recent books about the U.S.-Mexico border is Dear’s decision to begin at the beginning. Rather than starting with the construction of the U.S.-Mexico wall … Dear goes back as far as archeological records allow to the first humans who inhabited the Americas. It provides perspective that demonstrates how recent, and rash, the current walled and securitized border really is. Dear also gives equal time to events on both sides of the border rather than privileging the U.S. perspective. He writes beautifully, and the style is designed to be serious but not in a way that will turn off more casual readers. …

With the broad historical sweep and the patience to tell those earlier stories first without rushing ahead to our walled and bordered present, this book could become the definitive history of the U.S.-Mexico border. It is certainly the best I have read.

Reece Jones, Geographical Review, April 19, 2013 -Excerpt

A fascinating and indispensable book for everyone living in North America. Michael Dear deploys a rigorous social science mixed with the fresh eye of an explorer to guide us through the ‘third nation’ that has sprung up between Mexico and the US.

Sergio Aguayo, El Colegio de México

A comprehensive history of the multiple tensions and processes related to the creation and strengthening of the demarcation at the U.S.-Mexican border, based on a transnational and transdisciplinary perspective that recovers the multiplicity of visions and challenges on both sides of the border. The most novel aspect of Dear’s approach is the complex and optimistic emphasis placed on the social and cultural practices of border people, which show connectivity, continuity, and the possibility of thinking about a region without walls. This is a challenge not only to the notion of border and nation, but also a powerful counterargument to the discourses of fear that permeate perceptions of one of the world’s most sensitive geopolitical edges.

Norma V. Iglesias-Prieto, San Diego State University

Michael Dear, Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, has given us a brilliant portrait of border towns from the end of the Mexican American War until the twentieth century. The author believes that many of the problems are due to highly restrictive American policies and violence along the Mexican border. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo established the basic boundary. In the 1990s, due to many undocumented crossings from Mexico, large fences began to rise in cities such as Tijuana and Cuidad Juarez. Also, after 9/11 many walls, fences, and checkpoints arose along the Mexican-American border. It is the main purpose of this book to focus on these border towns and the lessons one has learned.

San Francisco Book Review

In this lucid, concise, engaging, graceful, and constructive volume, Michael Dear draws on insights from across the social sciences and humanities to map the emergence and significance of a ‘third nation,’ formed from the juxtaposition, interconnection, and exchange between Mexico and the United States on both sides of their increasingly blurred political border. Dear argues convincingly and eloquently that the physical barrier being constructed along the US-Mexico frontier is an unprecedented and damaging historical aberration that will eventually be overwhelmed by the strong, positive human connections between the United States and Mexico.

Abraham F. Lowenthal, University of Southern California

This is an important, elegantly written volume that reflects the very hybridity it seeks to portray: it flips between Mexican origins and U.S. politics, between cultural studies and hard social science, between the personal and the analytical with a playful skill and ease that captures the very spirit of the borderlands. Dear reveals the creation of a new border culture in which blended identities, and daily transnational and transcultural interactions are emerging even as the walls between our two countries continue to rise.

Manuel Pastor, University of Southern California