The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail

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University of California Press, 2015 - Social Science - 358 pages
In this gripping and provocative "ethnography of death," anthropologist and MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Jason De León sheds light on one of the most pressing political issues of our time--the human consequences of US immigration and border policy.

The Land of Open Graves reveals the suffering and deaths that occur daily in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as thousands of undocumented migrants attempt to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

Drawing on the four major fields of anthropology, De León uses an innovative combination of ethnography, archaeology, linguistics, and forensic science to produce a scathing critique of "Prevention through Deterrence," the federal border enforcement policy that encourages migrants to cross in areas characterized by extreme environmental conditions and high risk of death. For two decades, systematic violence has failed to deter border crossers while successfully turning the rugged terrain of southern Arizona into a killing field. Featuring stark photography by Michael Wells, this book examines the weaponization of natural terrain as a border wall: first-person stories from survivors underscore this fundamental threat to human rights, and the very lives, of non-citizens as they are subjected to the most insidious and intangible form of American policing as institutional violence.

In harrowing detail, De León chronicles the journeys of people who have made dozens of attempts to cross the border and uncovers the stories of the objects and bodies left behind in the desert.

The Land of Open Graves will spark debate and controversy.

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About the author (2015)

Jason De León is Professor of Anthropology and Chicana/o and Central American Studies, UCLA; a 2017 MacArthur Fellow; Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project; and President of the Board of Directors for the Colibrí Center for Human Rights. In 2010, he hosted American Treasures, a reality-based television show on the Discovery Channel about anthropology and American history. He is currently organizing a global participatory exhibition called "Hostile Terrain 94" that will be installed in 150 locations simultaneously on six continents through the summer of 2021.

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