Sarah Lopez

Assistant Professor of Architectural History, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin

La Salle County Regional Detention Center in Encinal, Texas Image: Sarah Lopez.

La Salle County Regional Detention Center in Encinal, Texas Image: Sarah Lopez

Jorge Otero-Pailos.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019
6 pm - 7:30 pm
Hayes 403

Migrant Detention, Incarceration and the Spatial Imagination

Texas has more migrant detention centers and migrant prisons than any other state in the Union. Sarah Lopez focuses the construction and design of migrant detention facilities in Texas since the 1960s in relation to immigration policy and private prison practices. Using archival and ethnographic methods that include historic newspaper articles, ICE contracts and documents, satellite imagery, field observations and interviews, this historic genealogy of the construction of detention facilities reveals the government’s abdication of design responsibilities as private prison corporations and construction companies assume authority and responsibility for making critical design decisions that impact migrants’ daily lives.

Examples of Work


Sarah Lopez, a built environment historian and migration scholar, is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Lopez' book entitled, The Remittance Landscape: The Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban USA was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2015 and won the 2017 Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her current research on the architectural history of immigrant detention facilities contributed to the Humanities Action Lab’s States of Incarceration national exhibit, on view from 2016 to 2019. Lopez was a Princeton Mellon fellow in 2016-2017, a Snell Fellow in 2017-2018, and is a faculty affiliate with American Studies, the Amos Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the Institute for Latin American Studies, and the Center for Mexican American Studies. She researches and teaches at the intersections of migration, ordinary landscapes, urbanism, and spatial justice.

Co-Sponsored by the Cities and Society Research Workshop of the UB Humanities Institute