Jason De Leon holds a split faculty position in the Department of Anthropology and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA. He 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 a 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. De León’s research in the project focuses on understanding the experiences of migrant subgroups such as women, children, LGBT individuals and non-Mexican migrants.
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. His interdisciplinary approach within the project earned De León a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2017. He is also affiliated with the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, which is where his research lab is located (in the same room where he began his undergraduate studies under the mentorship of Jeanne Arnold in the mid-1990s).