Katie Hall, soon starting her senior year in the SOAN department, has been immersed in a fascinating and interesting anthropological summer project. We asked her to provide is with a quick overview of her time on the project so far. Here’s what she had to say:
The Undocumented Migration Project is a field school that focuses on using archaeological methods to study human migration across the borderlands. Migrant belongings such as backpacks, clothing, water bottles, food wrappers, and other personal items litter the Sonoran Desert. Many interest groups see this trail of belongings as harmful to the local landscape. While this complaint may be valid, we also see this as an opportunity study the material culture of a very elusive population. These items are artifacts; evidence of history in the making. It is important that we study them now because artifacts of fabric and plastic will not survive to be studied by future generations. Beyond the ephemeral quality of these things, it is imperative we examine them now to document their saga of human suffering and bring attention to the horrors migrants experience in this harsh climate. With the construction of the massive wall along parts of the border and an increase in Border Patrol presence, migrants are forced to traverse the most remote regions of the borderlands in order to evade detection. Crossing through these areas with their host of dangerous plants, animals, and landscapes subjects migrants to injury, exposure, and—all too often—death.
Each student here has an individual research project that focuses on the migrant experience in the borderlands. These projects range from ethnography and archaeological survey to political science and economic analysis. My own research project falls under forensic anthropology and focuses on the post-mortem processes a body undergoes after death in the desert, as well as the insufficient existing policies of body recovery and how they inhibit the medical examiner’s ability to identify the remains of a missing migrant.