State of Exception
Of Braceros Fracasados and Other Success Stories: Border Ballads and Laments


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  • Speaker: Daniel Ramirez, Assistant Professor of History and American Culture.
  • Host Department: Theme Semester
  • Date: 01/29/2013
  • Time: 12:30PM - 2:00PM

  • Location: 202 S. Thayer, #2022

  • Ramirez,Daniel
  • Description:

    The heightened surveillance and criminalization of the U.S.-Mexico border—and the resultant body count—has cast into sharp relief the zone’s shadowy reputation as a dangerous periphery of two nation-states. The traveler who traverses outside the legal limits does so at his or her own peril; hence, migrants’ invocation of heavenly succor for the passage. Like other border zones in other times and places (e.g., the Scottish-English and Spanish-Moorish borders), however, the frontera has also proved a fecund site of subaltern poetics. From migrating beet workers in “Michiga” in the early twentieth century to “Wetback” workers of the post-WWII era to migrating oaxaqueño and Central American Pentecostal evangelists today, the experience of uprooting and contingent citizenship has found expression in a vast musical repertoire, both profane and sacred, and in visual and prayer practices that have left their traces in home and church altars and among the detritus and cadavers of undocumented border-crossers.       

    This exhibition presents traces of the human experience--backpacks, water bottles, border patrol restrains, and other objects left behind in the desert by undocumented migrants on their journey into the U.S. This in combination with video shot by Richard Barnes on location along the U.S./Mexico border comprises State of Exception, the first major curation of the work of U-M anthropologist Jason De León’s Undocumented Migration project. This collaboration between artist/photographer Richard Barnes, De León, and curator Amanda Krugliak considers the complexity and ambiguity of the found objects and what they may or may not reveal in terms of transition, human experience, culture, violence, and accountability.  

    Two days of events are planned around the exhibit opening which will bring together students, scholars in the field, artists, and the local community:

    Wednesday, January 23:

    • Visit to Jason De León's class on materiality/violence by University of Arizona Professor Robin Rieneke and writer Kathryn Ferguson.
    • Workshop and round-table presentations featuring Jason De León and students who have participated in the Undocumented Migration Project and Field School.

    Thursday, January 24

    • Lecture by Stephen Brighton, Professor of Anthropology, University of Maryland
    • Panel discussion with Stephen Brighton, Kathryn Ferguson, Robin Rieneke, and Jason De León.
    • Opening reception of State of Exception exhibit with short remarks from students from the field school and informal  Q & A in the gallery.

    Tuesday, January 29

    • Daniel Ramirez Lecture


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