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.
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.
"A powerful book . . . The Land of Open Graves is very appropriately published in the California Series in Public Anthropology and represents just what public or engaged anthropology can and should be. . . . This is a book that all parties should read."
— Anthropology Review Database
"Important and gut-wrenching . . . [De Leon's] engagement with illegal immigration through photography, archeology, forensic science, linguistics, and ethnography is revitalizing in its full encapsulation and acknowledgement of its complexity. . . . I wholly recommend this book."
— Border Criminologies
"Everyone should read this book... De León introduces readers to a world that they likely either do not know or wish they could forget."
— Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books
"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."
— The Times Literary Supplement