Mette High’s “Fear and Fortune” and Jason Leon’s “The Land of Open Graves” both explore how individuals, products, and thoughts traverse national boundaries. The writers concentrate on the tensions that exist between these campaigns, as well as how particular individuals perceive borders. They provide information and anthropological insights that people can use to better understand globalization. The essay would concentrate on the two books in order to investigate the challenges that individuals, products, and ideas face while crossing national boundaries and how they have affected the topic of globalization.
First, Jason Leon examines the Mexican-American frontier, especially the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. He argues that the desert is a “tool of border enforcement (Leon 21).” He also views it as “a killing machine (Leon 36).” This is because it formed the central part of the federal government “prevention through deterrence program (Leon 56).” The program aimed at preventing illegal immigration of people by pushing them to the hostile terrain of the Sonoran Desert instead of halting them. The desert environments are hostile to the people and would cause problems and even death to the victims. For instance, from January 2000 to September 2014, approximately 2,771 bodies were recovered lying in the desert. Violence against immigrants is the fundamental theme of the book. Leon brings the readers to the viciousness of this policy to the people of Arizona (Leon 104). He presents stories of people who attempted to cross the desert, for example, Lucho and Memo, are Mexican men who lived in the United States for years yet were deported (Leon 157). The story of Jose whose parents were illegal migrants in the US decides to walk across the Sonoran Desert to look for money to raise his soon to be family. Jose does not make it in the desert, and since then he has never returned (Leon 189).
Leon’s book sheds light on the human consequences of attempting to cross borders illegally. Precisely, he draws the readers into understanding the violent actions employed by the state in upholding the border enforcement policies. Leon uses the anthropological photo-ethnography method to present photos of undocumented immigrants so that the audience may “appreciate them as human beings (Leon 18).” Disposable cameras were given to immigrants to take and share photographs of the life they experienced in the desert. The pictures are essential anthropological tools of communication that promote the holistic understanding of the difficulties associated with the movement of people, goods, and ideas across the national borders. The visual representation of Leon’s arguments in a social context provides a comprehensive critique of the American immigration policy. The book opposes the current border practices. He further contests the discipline of anthropology and criminology through his advanced approach to the writing of the book. His plan provides an understanding of the tensions that affected people at the borders. Suffering and death as a result of violence are given priority in the book. People disappeared under the sun of the Sonoran Desert, and relentless turkey vultures scavenged the dead bodies (Leon 201). Therefore, the Land of Open Graves bears witness to the brutality at the American boundaries and thus has become a significant historical book for sociologists, anthropologists, criminologists, and members of the public who are interested in understanding the tensions that existed in the US borders (Leon 248).
Moreover, Mette High in the book “Fear and Fortune” explores the tensions surrounding the today’s gold rush in Mongolia has affected the people’s understanding of wealth and value. “What is the lure of gold? And at what price are we willing to pursue it? (High 12)” The quote provides evidence that human beings are ready to pursue the illegal gold trade in Mongolia. The author traces the continuities and discontinuities that exist between the human and non-human worlds. He follows the paths of gold as it passes from being mined, its conversion to “polluted money” as it enters the local shops and the Buddhist monasteries to join the illegal gold trade and return as “renewed” money for the “big bosses” of the gold mines (High 58). It is evident that the international communities rejoice in Mongolia’s mineral wealth while the participants in the gold rush were dangerously maneuvering within a financially-profitable yet morally charged mineral extraction. Fears surround the mineral yet fortune can be realized in the process (High 78). The author asserts that goods and money can act as a vector of adversity that is associated with angered spirits and calamities.
High has worked with the “ninjas” and the gold miners. He has also worked with the people who disapprove the illegal activities and warn the inhabitants of the sufferings that they may experience in return. The author talks about a radical change that can occur when life becomes “chaotic” and “strange” in the quest to lure profits (High 101). The people get involved with working with corrupted sources of money. He wonders if the currency can ever get cleansed and made usable. High addresses the intertwining of people’s lives by comparing it with fear and fortune. Therefore, the author offers an expansive approach to understanding the risks involved in human economic growth. It is evident that as goods are exchanged as with the case of gold in Mongolia, tensions such as illegal and corrupted currencies may be involved that may cause fear to the parties involved (High 140).
Furthermore, the two books provide insights on how we can use an anthropological understanding of globalization. Jason Leon employs a holistic anthropological approach by combining the forensics, ethnography, archaeology, and linguistics to display the human consequences of illegal immigration in all the complexity. The insights provided in the book critically analyze the situation at the American borders and help the readers to understand the sufferings and violence associated with the policies and laws that prevented people from crossing the border (Leon 324). Besides, Fear and Fortune gives a timely account of the ethnographic Mongolian gold rush. The book is a useful contribution on the issues of environmental, cultural, and social consequences of gold mining economies. The corrupted money gained after the exchange of the goods are faced with spiritual forces and thus needs cleansing to render them usable. The Mongolians transact money in ways that can be categorized as unusual and beyond expectations of the people. The author enables the audience to make a personal view of gold mining and its international circulation based on the Mongolian study (High 175). Therefore, the two authors propose that anthropological insights can be used to understand globalization.
The movement of people, goods, and ideas can be faced with policies that may bring tensions across the borders. The difficulties may bring suffering to the people especially when the restrictions require the use of violence. Again, movement of goods across borders to generate money can also be faced with tensions that may make the currency illegal leaving it to the hands of the minority. The tensions existing between the borders may be a significant hindrance to globalization.
High, Mette M. Fear and Fortune. New York: Cornell University Press, 2017.
Leon, Jason De. The Land of Open Graves. New York: California Series in Public Anthropology, 2015.