Jason De Leon Wins the 2018 J.I. Staley Book Prize

We’re pleased to announce that Jason De Leon, author of The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail is the winner of the 2018 J.I. Staley Book Prize presented by the School of Advanced Research.

The J.I. Staley Book Prize carries a cash award of $7,500 and seeks to recognize groundbreaking works and authors in the field of anthropology.

“Through an examination of the experience of undocumented migrants moving across the U.S.-Mexican border, Jason De León’s The Land of Open Graves integrates archaeological and ethnographic techniques to expose a central tragedy of border-protection policies that turn the harsh Sonoran desert environment into a zone of death. His prose, by turns clinical and intimate, draws readers into a politicized landscape and offers the vivid testimony of people who have survived their desert crossing.  Using forensic techniques and the photographs of Michael Wells and others, De León also reconstructs the stories of those who perished, in the process inventing an experimental archaeology of the present.  A powerful work of witnessing, The Land of Open Graves has profound relevance in an era of vast social displacement and global migration.” – 2018 J.I. Staley Prize Committee

Learn more about Jason and his work with The Undocumented Migration Project here.

Many congratulations to Prof. De Leon!

Happy Quasquicentennial to Us!

February 16th, 2018 marks the quasquicentennial of University of California Press, celebrating 125 years of scholarly publishing since its founding on this day in 1893. Throughout this time, UC Press remained one of the most forward-thinking publishers in the world, collaborating with scholars, librarians, and authors, to publish high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship.

With $1000 appropriated by the University of California’s Board of Regents, UC Press was established “to publish papers prepared by members of the Faculty,” 25 years after University of California was founded in 1868. The first UC Press publication was Outlines of the Temporal and Modal Principles of Attic Prose, a pamphlet by Greek Isaac Flagg, which went on sale at the student store in Berkeley in 1893.

From its inception, UC Press disseminated scholarship that has undergone rigorous peer review, and championed work that influences public discourse and challenges the status quo in multiple fields of study. Today, UC Press continues to serve as the nonprofit publisher of the University of California system, publishing 200 books and 30 multi-issue journals each year, and maintaining 4,000 book titles in print. Its mission to drive progressive change by seeking out and cultivating the brightest minds and giving them voice, reach, and impact is evident by its award-winning editorial program. A selection of awards UC Press titles has received in recent years includes: American Book Award, CHOICE Award, Municipal Art Society of New York Brendan Gill Prize, American Musicological Society Award, Daedelus Foundation Award, Smithsonian Eldredge Prize, National Jewish Book Award, ASCAP Foundation Virgil Thompson Award, and PROSE Award.

UC Press has also been recognized as an innovative, global leader in digital publishing, critical to its goal of making its content widely accessible. Its Open Access products, which include Collabra: Psychology, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, and Luminos, benefit from the same high standards for selection, peer review, and production as its traditional publishing programs.

Editorial Director Kim Robinson states, “Books make a difference, and I’m enormously proud to be associated with the long publishing history of University of California Press and its progressive publishing mission. Our authors consistently provide vital context and background to the most pressing issues facing us today, and we strive every day to ensure that their critical voices are heard.”

UC Press currently publishes in American studies, anthropology, ancient world/classical studies, art history, Asian studies, California and the West, communications, criminology, economics, environmental studies, film & media studies, food, geography, history, Latin American studies, Middle Eastern studies, music, psychology, public health, religion, and sociology.

Notable UC Press publications from decades past include:

To celebrate this milestone, UC Press will launch Voices Revived, a new cross-disciplinary series that brings field-defining, out-of-print books back into print.

Congratulations to 2017 MacArthur Fellows Jason De Leon and Trevor Paglen

UC Press is proud to have two 2017 MacArthur Foundation “genius” award recipients on its publishing list. Congratulations Trevor Paglen and Jason De Leon, who are among the current crop of #MacFellow winners. Profiles of all the award winners, and the complete list of the 2017 class can be found here.

Trevor Paglen’s book, The Last Pictures, was published in 2012, and Jason de Leon’s book, The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail, was published in 2015.

The awards come with a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000, which is awarded over a five-year period. More information on the 2017 MacArthur Fellowship geniuses was published in an article in today’s New York Times.

State of Exception/Estado de Excepción Opens at Parsons School of Design NY

The multimedia exhibition State of Exception/Estado de Excepción, on display at New York’s Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design through April 17th (check out the stellar review from Holland Cotter that appeared in March 3rd’s New York Times), presents traces of the human experience—objects left behind in the desert by undocumented migrants on their journey into the U.S. and other forms of data, all collected as part of the research of University of Michigan anthropologist Jason De León’s Undocumented Migration Project, as well as the basis for his 2015 book, The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail.

De León sees the materials as fragments of a history, revealing death, trauma, and suffering on both sides of the border while bringing to light complexities of the migrant experience.

Above: Richard Barnes, The Things they Carried-Migrant Death Artifacts #5 / Colibri Foundation (used with permission)

This exhibition, created by artist/photographer Richard Barnes and artist/curator Amanda Krugliak in collaboration with anthropologist De León, includes an installation of hundreds of backpacks left behind by migrants crossing the Arizona desert as well as numerous pieces of clothing and ephemera, and video images created by Richard Barnes on location along the Mexico-United States border. The installation also includes excerpts of original recordings of audio interviews with migrants, all part of De León’s work.

Above: Richard Barnes, Backpacks collected by Jason De Léon’s Undocumented Migration Project at the University of Michigan

In the many years now since Jason De León and his team commenced this research, State of Exception/Estado de Excepción has continued to evolve, constantly updated to reflect De León’s findings, the ongoing public debate around immigration, as well as the continuous efforts towards immigration reform, and inevitable backlash.  Now, more than ever, in the aftermath of a presidential campaign that fed off anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, it is absolutely critical to look deeper into the migrant experience and raise questions as to what the future may hold for the thousands of people fleeing dire poverty, drug cartel violence, and political instability to the south.

Above: Richard Barnes, The Things they Carried-Migrant Death Artifacts #6 / Colibri Foundation (used with permission)


 Jason De León is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and Director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term anthropological study of clandestine border crossings between Mexico and the United States. His academic work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including National Public Radio, the New York Times Magazine, Al Jazeera magazine, The Huffington Post, and Vice magazine. In 2013, De León was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. His book The Land of Open Graves is the recipient of the 2016 Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.