Hostile Terrain 94 Exhibition: Memorializing lives lost along the US-Mexico border
Hostile Terrain 94 Exhibition
Hostile Terrain 94 is a participatory exhibition created by the Undocumented Migration Project, a non-profit organization that focuses on the social process of immigration and raises awareness through research, education, and outreach.
The exhibit is composed of approximately 3,200 handwritten toe tags that represent migrants who died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert from the mid-1990s to 2019. These tags are geolocated on a wall map of the Arizona—Mexico border, showing the exact locations where human remains were found. The physical act of writing out the names and information for the dead invites participants to reflect, witness, and memorialize those who have lost their lives in search of a better one. This exhibit is taking place at over 120 institutions across 6 continents to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis at America’s southern border and to engage with communities around the world in conversations about migration.
In 1994, the United States Border Patrol launched the immigration enforcement strategy known as “Prevention Through Deterrence” (PTD). With heightened security measures at urban points of entry, undocumented migrants were forced to traverse extremely treacherous environments, land dubbed as “Hostile Terrain” by U.S. Border Patrol. PTD failed to deter border crossers and, instead, more than six million people have attempted to migrate through the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona since the 1990s. By using this tactic, the U.S. government has attempted to shift the blame onto the harsh environment, making the desert into a natural killing field. As a result of this policy, more than 3,200 people have died, largely from dehydration and hyperthermia, while attempting the journey through Arizona. PTD is still the primary border enforcement strategy being used on the US–Mexico border today.
The construction of HT94 is made possible by teams of volunteers from each hosting location, who participate in tag-filling workshops, where they write the details of the dead and then publicly place the tags on the map in the exact location where each individual's remains were found. Some tags also contain QR codes that link to content related to migrant stories and visuals connected to immigration, including a virtual exhibition that can be accessed via cellphone.
Hostile Terrain 94 at RIT
The exhibition at RIT will run from Oct. 27, 2021–Jan. 11, 2022.
The exhibition and all of its supplementary events are free and open to the public.
Sign-language interpreting for the exhibition and the supplementary events is provided upon request, subject to availability. Make your request at: https://myaccess.rit.edu.
The exhibition organizers are Dr. Christine Kray (Professor of Anthropology, Program Director for Sociology & Anthropology) and Dr. Juilee Decker (Professor of History, Program Director for Museum Studies).
The exhibition and its activities have been generously sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, Art Bridges, the Department of Sociology & Anthropology, and the Museum Studies program.
- Nov. 3, 3-5pm (1350 Booth Hall): Screening and discussion of "Border South" documentary, hosted by Communications Assistant Professor Claudia Bucciferro. Details: http://tinyurl.com/HT94Film
- Nov. 10, 6-7pm: Virtual talk on "The Land of Open Graves: Understanding the Current Politics of Migrant Life and Death along the US/Mexico Border," by Dr. Jason De León, UCLA anthropologist and designer of the exhibition. Details: http://tinyurl.com/HT94DeLeon
- Nov. 17, 12:30-1:30pm (LBR-1251): Gathering Thoughts: Conversations about Hostile Terrain 94 and Undocumented Migration. Join Professors Anthony Jimenez, Juilee Decker, and Christine Kray for a time to discuss and reflect. Details: http://tinyurl.com/HT94Thoughts
For more on the Hostile Terrain 94 exhibition and related activities at RIT, see: http://tinyurl.com/HT94RIT
For more on the global Hostile Terrain 94 pop-up exhibition, see: https://www.undocumentedmigrationproject.org/hostileterrain94.
For more on the Undocumented Migration Project, see: https://www.undocumentedmigrationproject.org.
When and Where
Open to the Public