The Land of Open Graves

The Land of Open Graves

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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.
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