The Things They Carried: Jason De Leon’s Undocumented Migration Project

Today, the New York Times featured a few photographs from the work of anthropologist Jason De León, who is documenting with tremendous thoughtfulness the detritus of illegal border crossing between the US and Mexico, and in general doing incredible things with the archaeology of the present. He teaches at the University of Michigan, and last semester I took a class in the department and read an article of De León’s that knocked me over: he detailed the predatory mini-economies that have sprung up at border towns where these dangerous crossings are staged, the talismanic superstitions that arise around these simple yet life-or-death objects, the water jugs that are black for border patrol camouflage and heat up to 120° each day, the haircuts and cheap new sneakers purchased by border crossers as to “not look poor” upon arrival in the States. More information about De León’s Undocumented Migration Project here and here.

Photo credit: Richard Barnes.