Hostile Terrain 94 coming in 2020.


In the fall of 2020, 94 locations around the globe will install the exhibition “Hostile Terrain 94” to raise awareness about America’s brutal immigration enforcement policy known as “Prevention Through Deterrence” that has claimed the lives of thousands of people since 1994. For more information on the exhibit and how to get involved visit our new website

Hostile Terrain Exhibition Opens January 24th, 2019

Our new exhibition “Hostile Terrain” is now open January 24th-April 25th, 2019 at the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster PA. Info can be found here. 

Hostile Terrain is a multimedia installation focused on different sensory engagements with the complex (and often ambiguous) world of clandestine migration. It builds on anthropological data collected by the Undocumented Migration Project, a decade long research endeavor that uses archaeology, forensic science, ethnography, and visual anthropology to understand the violent social process of border crossing between Mexico and the United States. Highlighting the discomfort that comes with knowing that there is no easy resolution to our global humanitarian migration crisis, Hostile Terrain both translates and transforms anthropological data into a sensorial experience while challenging the viewer to avoid the overly simplified analogy of the heroic/tragic migrant.

The UMP to be featured in new exhibition “Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways” opening October 2018 in Portland, Maine

The Undocumented Migration Project will be featured in new exhibition opening October 2018. Below is info from the press release:

Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways brings together a dynamic group of contemporary artists whose work engages the theme of migration. Organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, this exhibition will be accompanied by a wide range of events about migration, immigration, and border crossing hosted by collaborating partner organizations throughout the state. Events include companion exhibitions, lectures, films, performances, poetry readings, and community conversations. A detailed schedule and more information on each of the affiliated events will be available in September at

“Artists have always played a central and critical role in helping us to understand the emotions – pride, longing, melancholy, displacement, fear – that are so much a part of the immigration experience,” said MECA President Laura Freid. “In these times of war and distress, when so many are faced with displacement, exile, and the significant existential pressures of immigration, it is critical for all of us to try to understand and reach out to each other. I am hopeful that this ICA exhibition will help us to start healthy, open, and engaged dialogues in our community.”

The exhibition is organized by Director of Exhibitions and Special Projects, Erin Hutton and co-curated by Julie Poitras Santos and Catherine Besteman. Poitras Santos is an artist, writer and Assistant Professor in the MFA program at MECA. The relationship between site, story and mobility fuels a wide range of Poitras Santos’ research and production, often as a means to create community. Besteman is Professor of Anthropology at Colby College who has conducted extensive fieldwork in South Africa, Somalia, and the United States. Besteman recently published a book that examines the experiences of Maine’s largest refugee population.

In light of vigorous local and national dialogues about immigration, Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways seeks to make connections among local communities and to illuminate the experiences and materialities of displacement, exile, and mobility. Through its focus on pathways linking memory, movement, the loss of home, and the invention of a new one, the exhibition opens an inclusive critique of stereotypes about migrants and migration. The works enable viewers and participants to interrogate how structural inequalities and inequities influence our daily interactions and experiences of mobility.

Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways will be on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art from October 5 through December 14, 2018. The opening will take place on Friday, October 5, 2018, and a one-day symposium will be held on Friday, November 2, 2018. A number of additional programs including film screenings, community dialogues, artist talks, and exhibitions will take place at different venues throughout Maine while the exhibition is on view.

Participating artists include: Ahmed Alsoudani ’05, Caroline Bergvall, Edwige Charlot ’10, Jason De León+Michael Wells+Lucy Cahill, Eric Gottesman, Mohamad Hafez, Romuald Hazoumè, Ranu Mukherjee, Daniel Quintanilla+United YES+Yarn Corporation, María Patricia Tinajero and Yu-Wen Wu.

This exhibit is made possible in part thanks to the support of private donors, Colby College, the Lunder Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information, to request high-resolution images, or to schedule an interview with exhibition co-curators Julie Poitras Santos or Catherine Besteman, please contact Erin Hutton ( / 207.699.5025).

Jason De León joins Board of Directors for Colibrí Center for Human Rights

From Jason’s Facebook page:

“I am excited to announce that I have recently joined the Board of Directors for the Colibri Center for Human Rights, a non-profit family advocacy organization working to end migrant death and related suffering on the U.S.-Mexico border. I am honored to work with this truly amazing organization and I have seen first hand the powerful results of their tireless work, especially in regards to reuniting families with the bodies of those who needlessly perish while migrating to improve their lives and the lives of those they love. Please visit their website to learn more about what they do and see how you can help.”

The Land of Open Graves reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement


The Land of Open Graves was recently reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement.

Book critic Jennie Gamlin writes:

“The Land of Open Graves is hard to put down. Its violent and vivid content draws you into a reality that we should all know about, and the author’s interpretation provides a political and theoretical perspective that challenges conventional beliefs about undocumented migration.”

Read the full review here: TLS-LandOfOpenGraves-Review

“Land of Open Graves” now available for pre-order on

Jason De León’s forthcoming book The Land of Open Graves (featuring photographs by Michael Wells) is now available for pre-order on 


About the book: 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 death that take place daily in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as thousands of undocumented migrants attempt to cross 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.

A masterful storyteller, De León chronicles the harrowing 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.

Advanced praise for The Land of Open Graves:

“De León confronts us with a vivid indictment of the killing fields on the US-Mexican 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

“This book sears itself into your memory. You literally can’t put it down.” —Stanley Brandes, Robert H. Lowie Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley

“An impressive piece of scholarship, The Land of Open Graves is a brilliant and important book that humanizes the realities of life and death on the migrant trail in southern Arizona.”—Randall H. McGuire, author of Archaeology as Political Action

“Jason De León has written that rare and precious book — a masterful deployment of tools from across the broad spectrum of anthropology.” —Danny Hoffman, author of The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia

The Land of Open Graves is a politically, theoretically, and morally important book that mobilizes the four fields of anthropology to demonstrate beyond a doubt how current U.S. border defense policy results in deliberate death. Beautifully written and engaging, The Land of Open Graves will be a must read for students across the social sciences and the general public.” —Lynn Stephen, author of Transborder Lives: Indigenous Oaxacans in Mexico, California, and Oregon, and We are the Face of Oaxaca: Testimony and Social Movements.