Latino Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 225–256 | Cite as

Docile, criminal, and upwardly mobile?: Visual news framing of Mexican migrants and the logics of neoliberal multiculturalism

  • Kristen Hill MaherEmail author
  • Jesse Elias
Original Article


This study examines visual and textual representations of Mexican migrants in English-language photojournalism over the course of a decade. We find three clusters of representations: (1) male laborers portrayed as outside the bounds of society but often unfairly victimized (2) migrants portrayed as criminal in encounters with law enforcement, and (3) all other migrants, often portrayed in ways that valorized those who had “made good” or fit in. These clusters initially appeared to employ entirely separate tropes about different demographics of migrants. However, we find that they instead often reflect the same migrant demographics in different geographies and at different moments of the migration trajectory. We argue that these tropes collectively reflect and promote the cultural and economic logic of neoliberal multiculturalism, serving the neoliberal state and legitimating the precarity of migrants in labor markets.


Mexican migrant Visual methods News framing Labor Immigrant Neoliberal multiculturalism 

¿Dóciles, criminales y de movilidad ascendiente?: El encuadre noticioso de los inmigrantes mexicanos y la lógica del multiculturalismo neoliberal


Este estudio examina las representaciones visuales y textuales de los inmigrantes mexicanos en el fotoperiodismo angloparlante a lo largo de una década. Encontramos tres grupos de representaciones: (1) hombres obreros representados como fuera de los lindes de la sociedad pero a menudo injustamente victimizados, (2) inmigrantes representados como criminales en encuentros con las fuerzas policiales y (3) todos los demás inmigrantes, muchas veces representados de forma que valoriza a los que “triunfan” o se adaptan. Estos grupos inicialmente parecían emplear tropos completamente distintos para describir las diferentes poblaciones de inmigrantes. Sin embargo, encontramos que muchas veces reflejan los mismos sectores demográficos de inmigrantes en diferentes geografías y en distintos momentos de su trayectoria migratoria. Planteamos que estos tropos reflejan y promueven colectivamente la lógica cultural y económica del multiculturalismo neoliberal, y que así sirven al estado neoliberal y validan la precariedad de los inmigrantes en los mercados laborales.

Palabras clave

Inmigrante mexicano Métodos visuales Encuadre noticioso Laboral Multiculturalismo neoliberal 



The authors are grateful to colleagues in SDSU’s Chicano and Chicana Studies Department, who were a generous and insightful audience as these ideas began to take shape, and to Marcial Gutierrez for his contributions as we reviewed literatures. We also thank Maria Cook, Cetta Mainwaring, Jill Esbenshade, and anonymous reviewers for wise and helpful commentaries.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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