Synopses & Reviews
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.
"De Leon's text is remarkable in its use of mixed and novel methods, alongside an honest discussion of the reasoning and motiviations that inspire his work." Migration Studies
"De León confronts us with a vivid indictment of the killing fields on the US-Mexico border and reveals the brutality of global inequality in all its goriness and intimate suffering. A self-described refugee from archaeology, De León is revitalizing the field of anthropology by blowing apart the traditional subdisciplinary boundaries. With no holds barred, he offers new paths for theory, methods, and public anthropology." Philippe Bourgois, author of Righteous Dopefiend and In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio
"Jason De León has written a remarkable book. I know of no other ethnography of life and death on the borderlands that is more moving, theoretically ambitious, or powerful than this eagerly awaited work." María Elena García, author of Making Indigenous Citizens: Identities, Education, and Multicultural Development in Peru
About the Author
Jason De León is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and Director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term anthropological study of clandestine border crossings between Mexico and the United States. His academic work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including National Public Radio, the New York Times Magazine, Al Jazeera magazine, The Huffington Post, and Vice magazine. In 2013, De León was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.