Immigrants, Scientists, and Butterflies: Depicting Cultural and Biological Diversity in Conservation Photography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 2007-2019 Academic Article uri icon


  • This article examines the work of conservation photographer Krista Schlyer who documented the impact of the U.S.-Mexico border wall on people, wildlife, and the land between 2009 and 2012. While scholars in the environmental humanities have previously analyzed literary and artistic representations of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, this is the first analysis of how conservation photography portrays biodiversity in the borderlands. I analyze Schlyers works including Continental Divide (2012), a collection of photography, and Ay Mariposa (2019), a documentary film, in the historical context of the controversy concerning the environmental consequences of border wall construction that escalated during the 2016 election cycle and under the Trump administration. I argue that Schlyers work depicts the intersection of cultural and biological diversity in the borderlands in such a way as to unsettle and transcend oppositions of nature-culture and human-animal. These findings have implications for cultural productions that advocate for social and environmental justice.

published proceedings

  • Sites a journal of social anthropology and cultural studies

author list (cited authors)

  • Perret, M.

complete list of authors

  • Perret, Meg