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University of Mississippi

Hostile Terrain 94

Hostile Terrain 94 exhibit on wall in Lamar Hall

Each hand-written toe tag represents one of the 3,400 migrants who have died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert from the mid-1990s to 2020.

Students, faculty, staff, and community members built the Hostile Terrain 94 exhibition, which was completed and on display in Lamar Hall last October. The participatory presentation included sessions in which volunteers filled out hundreds of handwritten toe tags representing migrants who died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert from the mid-1990s to 2020.

Jason De León, professor of anthropology and Chicana, Chicano, and Central American Studies at UCLA, shared his experiences as executive director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a nonprofit research-art-education-media collective, during his talk “The Land of Open Graves: Understanding the Current Politics of Migrant Life and Death along the US-Mexico Border.”

students install Hostile Terrain 94Students fill out toe tags to create the Hostile Terrain 94 exhibitThe events were part of the Movement and Migration/Future of the South Initiative launched by Simone Delerme, McMullan Associate Professor of Southern Studies and Anthropology, and Carolyn Freiwald, associate professor of anthropology, in 2019.

“Carolyn and I selected this exhibit, which is taking place at over 120 institutions across six continents, because it raises awareness about the humanitarian crisis at America’s southern border and allows students to engage in conversations about migration,” said Delerme.

“We were lucky to have Dr. De León come to campus. Our students have read about what’s happening at the border and now they’ve heard the stories firsthand. He’s telling stories about migrants, and many of us have migration stories in our own families and ancestors that migrated.”


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