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 his gripping and provocative debut, anthropologist Jason De León sheds light on one of the most pressing political issues of our time--the human consequences of US immigration 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, this policy has failed to deter border crossers while successfully turning the rugged terrain of southern Arizona into a killing field.

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 Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, with his lab located in the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. De León is Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), a long-term anthropological study of clandestine migration between Latin America and the United States that uses a combination of ethnographic, visual, archaeological, and forensic approaches to understand this violent social process. His academic work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including National Public Radio, the New York Times Magazine, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, and Vice. In 2013, De León was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

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