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Posted on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

University of Michigan anthropologist creates exhibit inspired by unauthorized immigrants

By Ben Freed

University of Michigan anthropologist Jason De Leon was inspired to start the Undocumented Migration Project after he came across the body of an unauthorized immigrant while doing fieldwork in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. The immigrant, a 41-year-old woman named Marisol, had died attempting to crawl up a steep hill north of the state’s border with Mexico according to a story published in Salon.


Photographer Richard Barnes took many of the pictures used in the exhibit after curator Amanda Krugliak introduced him to Jason De Leon

From exhibit brochure

Artifacts collected from the resulting project are now on display in Ann Arbor as part of a small exhibition entitled State of Exception. The exhibition includes a number of desert backpacks found by De Leon, an assistant professor of anthropology at U-M, and his students.

According to the report in Salon, a curator at the Institute for the Humanities Gallery at Michigan named Amanda Krugliak encouraged De Leon to develop the exhibit after reading about his research.

State of Exception is on view at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Gallery in the Thayer Academic Building through March 12.

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Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Sun, Mar 10, 2013 : 3:58 a.m.

This exhibit is incredible and pure, not trash. Some of these comments are extremely disrespectful, politically incorrect, and untrue. I think the true fools in Ann Arbor are the ones who post comments so hatefully.


Sun, Mar 10, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

I agree, I was not attempting to put others down, but it is hard to believe that so many people in Ann Arbor could be so closed-minded.

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 10, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

June226 while I have mixed feelings about this exhibit, if someone doesn't agree they shouldn't be put down. What bothers me the most is that everything, art, politics, etc. is only viewed in one way. This applies to everyone including myself at times.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

Thanks Ben, for citing the article and my part in it, to be involved in this collaboration with Richard Barnes and Jason De Leon has been tremendously challenging, rewarding and enlightening. There have always been laws...laws that forced people to sit in the back of the bus, and laws that required others to wear armbands or to live in ghettoes, and others that denied women the right to vote, and laws that violate the rights of children as well as prisoners. In the end, it is about humanity, and our sense of moral responsibility regarding human life and human suffering, rather than a line or a fence or a wall. Our communities( including Ann Arbor and all the rest in Michigan) depend on those who work tirelessly at low wages often without benefits in our businesses, our restaurants, our factories, to add to the quality of our lives.

Tim Hornton

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

Is anthrology even considered science, Maybe up there sociology and womens studies

P Beal

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

Many comments show how ignorant many of us are; much of what has been learned in archeology and anthropology has been from trash and graves. That, and trash, is what people leave behind not even thinking that they have left a record of their passage although a strange one needing careful interpretation. Google 'kitchen midden' to get a different view.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

Still feel less American than the pride I carried in my youth. I wonder if my grandparents would immigrate to this country today.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

when did "illegal" become a dirty word ? should our laws now be called "authorizations" ?

Jack Gladney

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

Since my comments were deleted twice by the PC language police (read: moderator) when last had a piece about "unauthorized migrants," I shall reserve further comment.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

Honestly, Your Honor, I did not "rob a bank." I merely made an "unauthorized withdrawl."

Tyrone Shoelaces

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

What the heck is "unauthorized?" Never heard of that term. perhaps you mean "illegal," as in trespassing?

Jen Eyer

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

Jack: This is a new style, decided upon a couple of weeks ago.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

Thanks Jen, So in summary, readers comments genuinely questioning the term chosen by the "10" for this story are subject to mass deletions - even the original explanation by the by-line author (Ben Freed). All were replaced by Kyle's assertion of "most correct", "neutral" or the "limited nature of the commenting system" and that comments "distracting" from the article would be deleted. Wow.

Jack Gladney

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

Sorry, Jen... That answer does not hold water. Using's own search box, type, "illegal alien." and tell me how many hits with "" come up in the first two pages. (hint: 13+).

Jen Eyer

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8 p.m.

Arborcomment: MLive refers to MLive Media Group, the company that owns and nine other newspapers / digital news hubs across the state. The editors of these 10 local news operations came to consensus on using the term "unauthorized immigrants." It's important for us to have a single style because all of our content feeds into the same site: -Jen Eyer State community engagement director MLive Media Group


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Disappointed Kyle. A simple question to Ben on the origins of his "most correct" terminology is met with mass deletions and followed by your boilerplate "Mlive" definition. So tell us, why does "Mlive" believe it's the "most accurate" and why would Mlive need to be "neutral" on illegal immigration? Who's "Mlive"? Perhaps we could get a list of other secret committee terms - it would be helpful to readers/commenters and cut down on unneeded work by the moderators

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

We hear you Jack, and are open to all readers thoughts regarding the use of the term however, due to the limited nature of the commenting system and the fact that we don't want a debate over a term to distract from the actual story we're accepting all feedback regarding this via email.

Jack Gladney

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Kyle, (and Paula) certainly you are aware that it is language itself that can and often frames a discussion. Your censorship of a discussion regarding the language that uses is very questionable and furthermore puts into question the credibility of stories that one reads on this site.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

Please note any debate regarding this term is subject for removal if you wish to provide input your thoughts on term your feel most appropriate please feel free to email it my way.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

MLive Media Group uses the term unauthorized immigrant because we believe is the most accurate and neutral of the available options.

Tom Joad

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

The wholesale shedding of millions of Mexicans north is a relief valve for their impoverished and over-populated country. That's defacto government policy. The coming catastrophe Mexico faces currently is PEAK OIL. Google Cantarell Oil field. It's Mexico's largest field, at one time producing over 2 million barrels a day. Its output PLUMMETED to now less than 500,000 barrels per day. It's a classic peak oil scenario of a bell shaped curve followed by a drastic decline in production. What that means for the USA is that more and more desperately poor people will flee across the border for any kind of sustenance or opportunity. Mexico used to be the USA's 2nd largest exporter of oil and now it number 6. The government of Mexico relies on that oil revenue to provide fundamental social services to its large population. Faced with diminishing revenues how are they going to provide for its own people? Energy is the final equation in any economic activity.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 10:18 p.m.

I agree with MOST of what you said.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Priceless! Unfortunately most people don't fully get the relationship between energy and survival economics - yet. And most who do don't want the others to know (probably including the thumbs down folk) because they are the dwindling energy providers. Unfortunately most people don't get the fact that overpopulation will cost them dearly in the near future. That openly dealing with the problem begins at the unauthorized sources instead of building more apartments. Unfortunately the brains responsible (from the White House, to the UM, to the City) are evading their duty just to look good or get some notice today. When starvation and rioting or just mass war decimation starts "immigrating" I hope the Politically Correct aloofers understand who is going to be blamed. Unlike the past where tyrant systems could find "reconciliation". Given the globalization reach of this issue, not too many will find the safe haven that they are counting on.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:40 p.m. speak like this is some sort of recent occurrence.It isn't. It's been going on for decades , even when the world was awash in oil.What is recent is that now many people think it is completely acceptable


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:04 a.m.

So the "unauthorized" immigrants litter is on display. They may have even exhaled poisonous CO2 gas as they came up that hill. For a city so full of education Ann Arbor is full of fools.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11 a.m.

@Ivor Ivorsen Unless an alien theorist - then who's on first according to Virginia history, goes back 17,000 years. The English were not very likely to be the first "immigrants". Who the original owner was is unknown. Very unlikely to be the Powhatans. While they dominated the area at that time (by force), there were at least three distinct languages encountered by the colonists - Algonquian, Siouan and Iroquoian. Just as their hosts had probably done to their hosts before them - the "colonists" forcefully took over the land or bought it for peanuts. Upon establishing common Law and Order over land, and claim rights under United Nations law as agreed to by most sovereigns, the influx North since colonization is technically the "first" illegal wave. If the Mayans had any valid territorial law, then the Conquistadors (the majority "hispanic" population in the Americas South of the U.S. Border) were also the first illegal immigrants in what is Mexico today, too. Some European traditions just diehard. Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition (Monty Python).

Jay Thomas

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:46 a.m.

I would just like to point out that the Mexican government gives it citizens maps to help them sneak into our country. Organizes protests against our border patrol (on the Mexican side of the border and in the U.S.). Condemns the idea that our national guard or military should be on the border. They also sue us in our court system (the world court, U.N. too) to stop us from preventing their "unauthorized" citizens from being here in any way, shape or form. At the same time they are doing all of this they use their military to guard their own borders (the Mexican military has crossed into the U.S. hundreds of times to deliver drugs according to the Border Patrol). They treat the Central Americans who try to sneak into their country like dirt. They lock up and then deport any foreigners involved with anything remotely political (as much as attending a political event as a spectator). You cannot buy land there (only lease it). If you are sick but have no money on you they will leave you outside the hospital to die. Etc, etc, etc.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:23 a.m.

From the original story: The exhibition also contains a grid of overlapping video interviews conducted with six students working on the project. "I look at these bottles and these backpacks, and it still comes to my mind as garbage," says one of them.


Sun, Mar 10, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

and then after the student says that the next line is: "But it's not." you forgot that part

Tyrone Shoelaces

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

"If a monkey could do it, it's not art."

Jay Thomas

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:17 a.m.

Those are just dumb kids; that's high art!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3 a.m.

Was that a photo of Camp Take Notice ? Ann Arbor Council may want to buy some of that with the left-over money in the arts fund... Just sayin'. Its so CalifAnnArbor...

Ivor Ivorsen

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:37 a.m.

the "colonists" at Jamestown and Plymouth Colony--illegal or unauthorized?

Jay Thomas

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:16 a.m.

They were illegal if there was a nation there that had such a law and the capacity to enforce it. It's important to remember that there were only as many people living here (in what is the U.S.) back then as there are today in Metropolitan Atlanta.

Ivor Ivorsen

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:24 a.m.

Squaters? Nah, the English at Jamestown plunked themselves down in the middle of the Powhatan Confederacy...hardly a vacant or unoccupied territory/property. They had the nerve to sponge off the locals for a winter or two--before killing them that is. I'm leaning toward "illegal" for this bunch. Think they'll "self-deport"?


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

Legal, they used the theory of squaters rights.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:33 a.m.

Wealthiest billionaire in the world? 1. Carlos Slim (Helu & family) - Mexico - $73B (tops the list 4th year in a row). Presently there are 1426 (publicly known) billionaires in the world (1342 US) with a combined wealth of $5.4 Trillion. That is an increase of 16.3% over the 1226 billionaires in 2012. How? The entire world economy grew by 2.3% last year. Much less than 16.3%. The U.S. economy grew by 2.2% . The U.S. economy only grew by 0.1% in the last quarter 2012 - it almost shrank (recession). Backpacks from the U.S. bank executives heading South perhaps? When the greedy 1% stop pushing world overpopulation (adding more jobless cheap labor, homeless renters, impoverished consumers) and stop pulling the dwindling gdp out of its hand(adding more jobless, homeless, impoverished) maybe the anthropoligist will return to study the new luxurious middle class. Going on safe, happy family vacations across the border. Until responsible families can support Zero Population Growth there is no sympathy here.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:09 a.m.

The Mexican elite has gotten rich off of the remittances sent back to their banks by the "unauthorized" and their cell phone use (Carlos Slim Helu that you mentioned). They get to get rid of the class of people who have been responsible for so many of Mexico's revolutions (like releasing a safety valve). Not to mention the numerous criminals that now head north upon getting out of prison in Mexico. It's a win-win for them.

G. Orwell

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

I believe everyone should be treated equally. No group should be discriminated against or receive privileged treatment. Laws that are on the books should be followed. No exceptions. We are a nation of laws.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 10:46 p.m.

California voted itself a generation of political fools who are leading the countries largest single economy into bankruptcy on a flying carpet of bs. ....and they will pay the price of their apathy and ignorance.

Sam S Smith

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 3:52 a.m.

Wrong that California did this that is.

Sam S Smith

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 3:51 a.m.

Mr. Jay Thomas, I would say that this is wrong.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Sam, I believe California voted to give the "unauthorized" college funding benefits. Your thoughts?

Sam S Smith

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.

I agree everyone should be treated equally but the laws do not support people who enter the US illegally. I have mixed thoughts on this but your post is very interesting and somewhat a paradox for confusion.

John Roos

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:41 a.m.

From the comments looks like everyone is learning something!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:53 a.m.

Indeed! I also learned about run-on sentences earlier, it's been an exciting day!


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:29 p.m.

Hey, lets dump a bunch of trash on the ground and call it "low information art"! Custom made for those who don't know anything about boarder security, national defense, homeland security, immigration or art! A HOME RUN for Ann Arbor! I know plenty of immigrants who sacrificed greatly to come here legally and this nonsense is a slap in their faces by those too naive to think beyond clueless low information liberal bs.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 10:44 p.m.

Are you missing the point or maybe you don't know what the point is? Do you know anything about immigration? Illegal aliens are criminals who need to be jailed until they can be deported – every one of them. Those who come here legally are welcome. Why Mexicans come here is Mexico's problem. …and by the way, how do you think aliens are treated there who show up there from other South American countries? Get an education. Global poverty is a universal tragedy in that it's unnecessary in this age. Modern poverty is a political problem - not an economic one. The list of dirt poor countries run by dictators with hundreds of millions of billions in their bank accounts is long - ….one of them just died – finally.

Samuel Burns

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:58 p.m.

Well, I think dying of thirst in the desert trying to cross the border is a pretty big sacrifice. Perhaps, rather than just complaining about unauthorized immigration, we ought to be asking why people are risking this kind of horrible death in order to enter a country where they know they are going to be treated terribly, and how much of it is the responsibility of our country. The enemy of working people is not the immigrant (legal or otherwise), but the policies that make global poverty an inevitable fact.

Linda Peck

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:29 p.m.

Good for you, Jason De Leon! This needs saying. It needs documentation. I am not sure I could look at this, but to do this and bring it forward takes courage. Thank you.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:35 p.m.

No it does not take courage! It only takes a $71,000 salary and expenses paid for his junket.

Honest Abe

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:20 p.m.

Unauthorized immigrants? Is that supposed to be a politically correct term for illegal immigrants? Illegal immigrants need to be kicked out of our country, by the way! Now, back to the article....... I side with TheDiagSquirrel- Authorized immigrants inspired work only, please.

C'est la vie

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

We could go with the French term "sans papiers." Sounds so much more elegant!

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

MLive Media Group uses the term unauthorized immigrant because we believe is the most accurate and neutral of the available options. We're open to any feedback you may have on this, but please direct it to us via email for consideration so we can keep the conversation here on topic to Jason De Leon's exhibit and not a debate over a term.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:42 a.m.

6 down voters think we should be open borders and maximum welfare.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

Congressman John Conyers moved a resolution that the term illegal aliens or illegal immigrants was offensive and henceforth they shall be referred to as "out of status" immigrants.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:20 p.m.

This couldn't be any more "Ann Arbor" if it tried...


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

I prefer exhibits inspired by authorized immigrants...