Jason De León, Creator of “Hostile Terrain 94”, to Speak on Vanderbilt on September 29 | News


Jason De León (photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation)

Jason De León, creator of the Hostile ground 94 exhibition and founder of the Undocumented migration project, will give a free lecture on Wednesday, September 29 at 6 p.m. at the Sarratt cinema. A public reception will precede his speech from 5:15 p.m. at the Sarratt Gallery. All are welcome and wearing a mask will be compulsory.

Hostile ground 94, currently open at Sarratt Gallery through October 1, is a participatory art installation sponsored and curated by the Undocumented Migration Project, a non-profit research, art, education and media collective.

Visitors to the exhibit have filled out 3,200 toe tags over the past three weeks depicting migrants who died attempting to cross Arizona’s Sonoran Desert from the mid-1990s to 2019. These tags are then geotagged on a map Desert mural showing the exact locations where human remains were found. (A list of Vanderbilt and community groups that participated in the exhibit can be found below.)

The exhibit is named after the failed 1994 immigration law enforcement strategy known as “Prevention through Deterrence.” This US Border Patrol (now US Customs and Border Protection) policy was designed to force individuals to travel to more remote areas where the natural environment would act as a deterrent to travel. It was predicted that the difficulties people would encounter in what the US Border Patrol saw as “hostile terrain” would ultimately discourage migrants from attempting the journey.

According to Hostile ground 94 website, more than 6 million people have attempted to migrate through the Sonoran Desert to southern Arizona since 2000. At least 3,200 of them have died, largely from dehydration and hyperthermia. In recent years, this policy has moved people to Texas, where prevention through deterrence is still the primary border enforcement strategy.

More than 100 academic institutions around the world will host their own versions of Hostile ground 94 throughout 2021 and 2022. Vanderbilt’s Department of Anthropology is one of the few chosen by De León, professor of anthropology at UCLA and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, for an in-person lecture and questions -answer. De León has collaborated with Vanderbilt’s Faculty of Anthropology and postdoctoral fellows on research and service projects in the past, and his previous art exhibitions have been presented nationwide.

by Vanderbilt Hostile ground 94 the exhibition and related activities are sponsored by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latin Studies, Department of Anthropology, Sarratt Gallery, Great Citizenship Challenge Initiative and Kéfi collective.

For more information, visit the The CLACX site.

Hostile ground 94 at Vanderbilt participants

A number of Vanderbilt classes and groups, as well as community groups, participated in the interactive exhibit. These include the following:

Vanderbilt University Courses

  • CMST 3800: Communication and media studio
  • MHS 6500: Interdisciplinary writing
  • THTR 2651: reading direction
  • PSCI 2252: Migration Policies Across the Americas
  • ARTS 1800: Sources of contemporary art
  • LATS 2201: Introduction to Latin American Studies
  • LATS 4961/5961: Latinx Studies Seminar: Latinx Literature and Culture
  • ANTH 1101: Introduction to cultural anthropology
  • SPAN 4355: Spanish in society
  • PORT 2203: Intermediate Portuguese
  • HIST 1384: Gender, rights and the emancipation of slaves in Latin America
  • ANTH: Human osteology
  • HIST 1379W: The Inquisition in the New World: Law, Deviance and Heresy in Colonial Mexico

Vanderbilt University Groups

  • Small Group of Fellow Vanderbilt Ingram
  • Latin American and Caribbean Student Association
  • Freshmen Commons Group
  • Staff of the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity
  • Vanderbilt Association of Student Anthropologists
  • Participants in the International Lens of Immigration Nation: prevention through deterrence (screening on September 23)
  • Federal Relations Office staff in Washington DC (remote participation)

Nashville Community Groups

  • Tennessee Justice for our neighbors
  • Nashville Mayor’s Office
  • Meharry Latino Medical Students Association
  • East Nashville Racing Group
  • HIP Donelson Nonprofit
  • English-language scholarship recipients and students in the Formal Interrupted Education program at Metro Nashville Public Schools (Kindergarten to Grade 12 teachers in these programs were the participants)

Visitors to Vanderbilt University are welcome. The university’s current COVID-19 policy requires all off-campus visitors (regardless of vaccination status) to wear a mask indoors and outdoors.


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