Absent and Present: Contested Landscapes and Undocumented Migration at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Author(s): Gabriella Soto

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Chicanx Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

In pursuing archaeological research on contemporary undocumented migration at the Arizona-Sonora border, it became necessary for me to address the myriad and potent absences that made the entwined processes of undocumented migration, humanitarian efforts on behalf of migrants, and border security aimed against migrants tangible to me through scales of space and time. I confronted a landscape filled with traces of undocumented passage, but where undocumented people were seldom encountered, for many reasons. These traces, most often in the form of intimate survival belongings left behind by migrant travelers, were also changing and disappearing as ephemeral objects subject to degradation in the desert and active removal through organized "trash" clean-ups. Contextualizing all of this was my knowledge of the thousands of deaths and disappearances of undocumented travelers that were also largely absent from view. In this paper, I pair Bender and Winer’s seminal work on contested landscapes with Bille, Hastrup and Soerensen’s work on the Anthropology of Absence, outlining how material engagements with the conflict landscapes of contemporary undocumented migration must also engage absence. On a broader scale, I query how the power engagements that produce contested spaces might be better understood through an analysis of absence.

Cite this Record

Absent and Present: Contested Landscapes and Undocumented Migration at the U.S.-Mexico Border. Gabriella Soto. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451935)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -124.365; min lat: 25.958 ; max long: -93.428; max lat: 41.902 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 24665