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Art Exhibit Represents Plight of Undocumented Migrants

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Department of Anthropology invites UD community to 'Hostile Terrain 94' art installation

Tags hanging from board

The University of Delaware Department of Anthropology is proud to announce the completion of a major art installation titled Hostile Terrain 94. The installation is a wall art exhibit that includes more than 3,500 forensic toe tags that have been filled in by hand to match the exact details of individuals whose remains have been recovered along only one part of the U.S.-Mexico border, the Sonoran Desert, between the years 2000-2019.

The installation’s title refers to the 1994 Prevention Through Deterrence policy. The policy was an environmental deterrence strategy, designed to control unauthorized entry at the southwest border, by funneling migrants toward remote and deadly regions of the US/Mexico border.

“The tags are an attempt to bear witness to the violence of these border (and deportation) policies and to recognize the lives of migrants who have been victimized. The installation is an important resource for campus-wide education around border and migration policy and public outreach,” said Georgina Ramsay, associate professor and exhibit co-organizer.

The participatory art project is sponsored and organized by the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), a non-profit research-art-education-media collective. Ramsay worked with UMP to make UD one of more than 100 hosting partners who have displayed the exhibit nationally and globally. Ramsay also worked with various classes, student groups, and alumni over approximately four years who ultimately came together to participate in the commemoration of people who have lost their lives as a result of U.S. border policy.

Ramsay says that bringing the installation to UD is important because it makes us aware of the effects of US border policies and how they impact people within our communities.

“We see the installation as an opportunity to tap into one of the key reasons students come to UD for their education: that is, to become global citizens who are aware of and sensitive to global challenges, including forced migration. We have been purposely bringing the installation to classes outside our discipline to spread awareness of forced migration and human rights issues to students across UD,” said Ramsay.

The Department of Anthropology is planning specific programming, educational outreach, and speaker events related to the installation within the next year.

Unfortunately, human remains continue to be uncovered in the Sonoran Desert and the installation currently only reflects the lives of people who have been recovered up to 2019. UD plans on updating the installation each year to accurately reflect the number of lives lost, with help from the UD community.

The installation can be viewed during typical work hours at 103 Munroe Hall.​

Article by Lauren Gilligan 

Photo by Zoe Pawliczek 

November 29, 2023

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Department of Anthropology invites UD community to 'Hostile Terrain 94' art installation
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