Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Jason De León • Soldiers and Kings: Survival and Hope in the World of Human Smuggling

Soldiers and Kings Jason de Leon poster

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

4:00-5:30 p.m.

True North Classroom (101), 280 Brook St.

About the Event
Jason De León will be presenting his new book, Soldiers and Kings: Survival and Hope in the World of Human Smuggling. Following the talk, he will engage in a conversation with Ieva Jusionyte, Watson Family University Associate Professor of International Security and Anthropology, Peter Andreas, John Hay Professor of International Studies and Political Science, and Yannis Hamilakis, Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology and Professor of Modern Greek Studies.

About the Author
Jason De León is professor of Anthropology and Chicana/o Studies and director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also executive director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a 501(c)(3) research, arts, and education collective that seeks to raise awareness about migration issues globally while also assisting families of missing migrants reunite with their loved ones. He is a 2017 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and author of the award-winning book The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail.

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About the Book
Political instability, poverty, climate change, and the insatiable appetite for cheap labor all fuel clandestine movement across borders. As those borders harden, the demand for smugglers who aid migrants across them increases every year. Yet the real lives and work of smugglers—or coyotes, or guides, as they are often known by the migrants who hire their services—are only ever reported on from a distance, using tired tropes and stereotypes, often depicted as boogie men and violent warlords. In an effort to better understand this essential yet extralegal billion dollar global industry, internationally recognized anthropologist and expert Jason De León embedded with a group of smugglers moving migrants across Mexico over the course of seven years.

The result of this unique and extraordinary access is SOLDIERS AND KINGS: the first ever in-depth, character-driven look at human smuggling. It is a heart-wrenching and intimate narrative that revolves around the life and death of one coyote who falls in love and tries to leave smuggling behind. In a powerful, original voice, De León expertly chronicles the lives of low-level foot soldiers breaking into the smuggling game, and morally conflicted gang leaders who oversee rag-tag crews of guides and informants along the migrant trail. SOLDIERS AND KINGS is not only a ground-breaking up-close glimpse of a difficult-to-access world, it is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction.