Jason De Leon

Jason De Leon

Professor, Anthropology and Chicana/o Studies


Division of Social Sciences

Areas of Expertise:

Criminal Justice, Immigration/Immigrant Rights



Jason De Leon is an anthropologist whose research interests include theories of violence, materiality, Latin American migration, photoethnography, forensic science, and archaeology of the contemporary. He directs the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), a long-term study of clandestine border crossing that uses a combination of ethnographic, archaeological, 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. He is currently 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.

Jason was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2013 and was the Weatherhead Resident Scholar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the 2013-2014 academic year. He was awarded the 2016 Margaret Mead Award for his book “The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail” (featuring photos by Michael Wells). He is also on the Academic Board for the Institute for Field Research, a nonprofit organization operating over 42 field schools in 25 countries across the globe.

He holds a split faculty position in the Department of Anthropology and Chicana/o Studies. He is also affiliated with the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, which is where his research lab is located (in the same room where I began my undergraduate studies under the mentorship of Jeanne Arnold in the mid-1990s).

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Selected Books and Publications

Research Interests


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