Project DirectorDSCF3179 Jason De León is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and the director of the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP). He won the 2016 Margaret Mead Award for his book “The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail.” Jason is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and on the Academic Board for the Institute for Field Research, a nonprofit organization operating over 42 field schools in 25 countries across the globe.  He received his Ph.D. from Penn State University and B.A. from UCLA. His CV can be found here DELEON_CV_6-2017. Jason is  also a singer-songwriter who has recorded and released several albums with the Long Beach, California  based hardcore-reggae group Youth In Asia in the 1990s and with the Central Pennsylvania based group The Wilcox Hotel. He also records and performs as a solo artist and has toured extensively in the U.S. and Mexico. Jason once hosted a short-lived television show on the Discovery Channel called American Treasures, which allowed him to hang out with Mardi Gras Indians and the Drive-By Truckers.

Post-Doctoral Researchers and Collaborators

Dr. Cameron Gokee  is Research Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University. In addition to his work with the UMP, he  directs the Central Falémé Archaeological Project in Senegal, a long-term archaeological research program that examines how local communities participated in a variety of historical processes—including the shift from mobile hunting and herding to sedentary village life, the rise and fall of medieval empires, the violence of the Atlantic slave trade, the spread of Islam, and ultimately, the imposition of colonialism. Additional information on Cameron’s work can be found here.



Michael Wells is a Los Angeles based photographer who has worked on the UMP since 2009. His photos can be viewed here and galleries related to the UMP can be found here (2009) and here (2010).


Staff and Students

John Doering-White John Doering-White is a doctoral student in Anthropology and Social Work at the University of Michigan. He received his BA from Earlham College in Richmond, IN. John’s research focuses on intersections of violence and care surrounding humanitarian migrant shelters, train hopping, and Central American migration through 10636036_10201758434000844_6479659130533726996_nMexico. When pretending to sleep, John ponders outboard boat motors, Stroh’s beer, and hot meals enjoyed under highway overpasses.









HaedenPicHaeden Stewart is a doctoral student in anthropology/archaeology at the University of Chicago.  He received a BA in archaeology from the University of Toronto and an MA from the University of Chicago.  His research focus is on historical and contemporary archaeology in Western Canada.  His only real discernible talent is identifying people and things that come from Canada.









MurphyMurphy Van Sparrentak is a master of social work student at the University of Michigan, where she also received her BA in anthropology. Her research focuses primarily on the town of Arivaca and their relationship with the Border Patrol, as well as the transformation of border communities into exceptional spaces.  She enjoys drinking too much coffee, trying to make her cat love her, and finding every possible excuse to go to Arivaca. 




Polina Hristova is currently an undergraduate at the University of Michigan concentrating in Anthropology and International Studies with a minor in Spanish.  Her lab work has UMP Bioincluded cataloging artifacts from desert sites, transcribing migrant interviews, and investigating how the U.S. border enforcement policy “Prevention Through Deterrence” affects the way female migrants perceive and cope with harsh desert terrain. Currently, she is working with Anna to understand how material objects used and discarded by female migrants map the social conditions women endure while crossing.





Ashley “Shooby” Schubert is a doctoral student in Anthropological Archaeology at the University of Michigan and joined the UMP field school in 2010.  She received her B.A. from Wake Forest University and M.A. from the University of Michigan.  Her research focusesschooby on prehistoric Cherokee communities in the Appalachian Summit during the emergence of Mississippian societies throughout the Southeastern U.S.  Her interests within the UMP project relate to interactions with Border Patrol, the material record deposited by the state-sanctioned corporal body, and how Border Patrol and undocumented migrant material culture are inter-related within a system that self-perpetuates inequality of power and sovereignty.  Overall, her broader focus is on culture contact systems and the material record of community response to socio-political and ecological pressures.   Additional information on Shooby’s work can be found here.





Anna Forringer-Beal is currently studying anthropology as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan and also planning on minoring in Spanish. Her interest is in how migrant sites (also known as migrant stations) are formed and the later deconstructed by conservation groups, natural processes, and UMP artifact collection. Her current work focuses on what types of information can be gleaned from analyses of the micro-facts (minute and often fragmented artifacts), that are left behind by conservation groups who often remove migrant artifacts from the desert.








Michelle Vosters is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan with a concentration in classical archaeology and planning on doubling in international studies. Michelle is a sophomore participating in the UROP program at Michigan and is interested in learning more about the motivations, process, and outcome of people’s undocumented migration. She loves to read in her free time. Michelle












gregGreg Sollish is a senior at the University of Michigan studying cultural and linguistic anthropology as well as history (though he has not officially declared anything in the history department). Greg joined the Undocumented Migrations Project as a sophomore through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. He is now working on preliminary research looking at differing cultural attitudes towards scavenging animals and necroviolence.




justine-bio-picJustine Auben Drummond is an anthropology honors undergraduate student at the University of Victoria. She attended the 2012 UMP field school, and will return in 2013 as a volunteer staff member. Drummond’s research is focused upon the materiality of humanitarian water sites. She will complete her B.A. in 2014, and plans to pursue a doctorate of anthropology/archaeology. In her free time, she enjoys writing about herself in the third person. She is also an amateur stand-up comedian.








Sam Grabowska is a doctoral student in Architecture at the University of Michigan. She holds a BA in architecture, a BFA in film, and a masters in interdisciplinary humanities. She’s interested in the “marginal” spaces of the built environment: where people make a home away from home, and where they go to escape the confines, crises, or banality in their everyday lives. Currently she is focusing on the informal architecture that undocumented migrants and drug smugglers create when crossing the Mexico-U.S. border, looking at both the materiality and mode of construction of the shelters, the surrounding socio-political landscapes of power, and the bodily experience of inhabiting the shelters. More information on Sam’s work can found here.