Jason De León

Professor of Anthropology and Chicana/o Studies

Lab website 

Personal Website


Ph.D. Anthropology, Penn State University, 2008
B.A. Anthropology, UCLA, 2001

Areas of Interest

Undocumented Migration, Violence, Materiality, taphonomy and site
formation processes, archaeology of the contemporary, forensic
science, photoethnography, Latin America, US/Mexico border


I am anthropologist whose research interests include theories of violence, materiality, Latin American migration, photoethnography, forensic science, and archaeology of the contemporary. I direct the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), a long-term study of clandestine border crossing that uses a combination of archaeological, ethnographic, visual, and forensic approaches to understand this phenomenon in a variety of geographic contexts including the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona, Northern Mexican border towns, and the southern Mexico/Guatemala border. I am working on book manuscript tentatively titled "Soldiers and Kings" that uses the lens of photoethnography to examine the daily lives of Honduran smugglers moving migrants across Mexico.


In Press           J. De León

“Como Me Duele”: Central American Bodies and the Moral Economy of Undocumented Migration. Paper prepared for The Border and Its Bodies: The Corporeality of Risk in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, edited by T. Sheridan and R. McGuire. University of Arizona Press.

2018                    J. De León

The Photoethnographic Eye: Visualizing the Honduran Migrant Experience in Mexico.  In Out of Bounds: Photography and Migration, edited by T. Sheehan, Routledge Press.

2015                J. De León

The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Sonoran Desert Migrant Trail. University of California Press, Berkeley.

2014                J. Beck, I. Ostericher, G. Sollish, and J. De León

Scavenging Behavior in the Sonora Desert and Implications for Documenting Border Crosser Fatalities. Journal of Forensic Sciences 60:S11-S20.

2013                J. De León

Undocumented Migration, Use-Wear, and the Materiality of Habitual Suffering in the Sonoran Desert. Journal of Material Culture 18(4):1-32.

2012                J. De León

“Better To Be Hot Than Caught”: Excavating the Conflicting Roles of Migrant Material Culture. American Anthropologist 114(3):477-495.

2009                J. De León

Rethinking the Organization of Aztec Salt Production: A Domestic Perspective. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 19(1): 45-57.

2009                J. De León, K. Hirth and D. Carballo

Exploring Formative Period Obsidian Blade Trade: Three Distribution Models. Ancient Mesoamerica 20:113-128.