Jason De León


Jason De León


Office: 364 Haines Hall

Email: jdeleon@ucla.edu

Phone: 310-825-5584

Personal Website

Curriculum Vitae

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I am an 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 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. I am 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.

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


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.


Ph.D. Anthropology, Penn State University, 2008

B.A. Anthropology, UCLA, 2001