Naming the Dead: Identification and Ambiguity Along the U.S.-Mexico Border
AuthorReineke, Robin Christine
AdvisorSheridan, Thomas E.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractSince the beginning of the 21st century, the deaths of migrants have become a regular occurrence in southern Arizona where an average of 170 bodies are recovered from the desert each year. This dissertation examines the causes and effects of death and disappearance along the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking to address the contradiction present in the fact that thousands of people have died or disappeared in one of the world’s most heavily surveilled landscapes. It interrogates the ways in which the dead, the missing, and their families are simultaneously erased and exposed in a biopolitical process that has powerful implications beyond the space of the borderlands. The observations for this dissertation are drawn from nearly a decade of both ethnographic research and applied humanitarian assistance in the field of forensic human identification, primarily at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, in Tucson, Arizona. Although the majority of migrant fatalities have been determined by the medical examiner to be accidental, resulting from exposure to the elements or unknown causes, a historical analysis reveals the violent nature of these deaths and disappearances, which are a structured result of U.S. border and immigration policies. From their homes to their destinations, migrants in the Americas face a particular kind of structural violence and social invisibility that is revealed when they disappear at the border. This disappearance is then made more thorough by the structured lack of access for families of the missing to services to assist them in their search. Practices of care, whether occurring within families of the missing and dead, during the desert crossing itself, or in the forensic work to identify the dead, powerfully contest the invisibility and erasure experienced by migrants in the Americas today.
Degree ProgramGraduate College