Tag Archives: state

On Dangerous Ground: Taphonomy, Necroviolence, and the Politics of Migrant Death in the Arizona Desert

Jason de León (University of Michigan)

In the mid-90s, the U.S. federal government implemented an immigration enforcement strategy along the southern border known as Prevention through Deterrence. This strategy increased security in unauthorized crossing areas surrounding urban ports of entry in an attempt to shift undocumented migration towards remote border regions such as the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, where security is less intense but crossing conditions are more difficult. Since 2009, I have directed the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term anthropological analysis of clandestine border crossings between Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona that uses a combination of ethnographic, archaeological, and forensic research to understand this violent social process. In this presentation I focus on the types of deaths that migrants experience during border crossings, the decomposition of their corpses, and the impacts that these desert fatalities have on families. Drawing on the archaeological concept of taphonomy (i.e., the analysis of the phenomena that impact the remains of biological organisms at the time of and after death), I argue that the post-mortem treatment of migrant bodies is part of a larger state project that uses nature as a weapon to maintain boundary control. I label this post-mortem treatment necroviolence and aim to show its direct connection to the American government’s problematic construction of undocumented people as expendable lives.

African non-State Networks, Social Capital or Social Liability? The case of DRC

Patience Kabamba (Penn)

The central argument of my study is that everybody knows about the wealth of the region, currently siphoned off by Rwandan/Ugandan generals in collusion with US corporations, but they don’t know about the social wealth and dynamism of the country. I argue that the future of Africa hinges on what happens to the DRC with its huge population and natural wealth including hydroelectric energy whose transport to distant destinations will require political reorganization of Africa by Africans. Indeed, the kleptocratic alliance between Jacob Zuma and Joseph Kabila prefigures a more serious future development linking South-Africa and DRC in SADC. The case of Butembo where in the absence of state framework and in the presence of multiple contenders for power, Nande traders networks managed to build a self-sustaining and prosperous transnational enterprise in North Kivu would serve as a parable. It presents an alternative story of Congo society being built from bottom up. Spinoza’s understanding of power as “potentia” and “potestas” would frame the theoretical underpinning of the new vision of the DRC I am putting forward.