Panel discusses violence in migration

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University of Indianapolis’s Associate Professor of Biology and Anthropology Krista Latham and IUPUI Assistant Professor of Anthropology Wendy Vogt presented an anthropology panel session entitled “Bringing Together Biological and Cultural Perspectives on the Violence of Migration” on Thursday, Oct. 16.  The panel session was at 4 p.m. in Lilly Hall 210 at the University of Indianapolis. It was sponsored by FOUND, a UIndy student organization which “students work to stimulate interest and education in forensics in people of all ages through activities such as lectures and workshops,” according to the university’s website.

Vogt is a cultural anthropologist. She obtained her doctorate from the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona.

“I’ve been dedicated to this issue for almost a decade, but I think that people here in Indianapolis, and just in the U.S., are becoming more aware of these issues,” Vogt said. “We really wanted to do an event that kind of gives a more complex and deeper understanding of what we’re seeing in the media right now and why it’s important for us, as Hoosiers, or people who don’t even live near the borders, to be thinking about these issues.”

Vogt elaborated on the issue of violence in migration. She said that it has been a problem for years, but recently was brought to light by writers and journalists.

“Particularly after 2010, there was a pretty horrific discovery of a massacre in the northern state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, where 72 mostly Central American migrants were found on a ranch. They had been executed,” Vogt said.

She said that this event made people realize what was going on and question it. Vogt said that she and Latham may be focused on one particular migration journey at the moment, but that it is not the only one in the world.

“To put this into kind of a broader context, we’re [Latham and Vogt] really focused on this migration journey from Central America to the U.S. But this isn’t the only migration journey in the world,” Vogt said. “When you look almost every week at the newspapers right now, we’re seeing lots of stories, particularly with the events that are happening in Syria and in Iraq.”

The title of the panel, “Bringing Together Biological and Cultural Perspectives on the Violence of Migration,” also explains the relationship between Latham and Vogt.

The two met coincidentally and were each interested in the same topic, but brought something unique to the table.

Latham is the director of the Molecular Anthropology Laboratory and co-director of Archaeology and Forensics Laboratory at the University of Indianapolis. She and a team have been digging up dead bodies, examining the bones, and attempting to send the bodies back to their families for proper burial and closure. She said that she took a team of UIndy students to Brooks County who volunteered to help out recovering the remains over the summer.

“The county I’m working in is one particular county in Texas called Brooks County,” Latham said. “The reason that I’m working in Brooks County is because over the past four years there’s been a 440 percent increase in the number of migrant deaths based in that one county.”

Latham said she hoped to have more opportunities in the future to bring awareness about violence in migration to the University of Indianapolis and other areas.

“We’re hoping to have more lectures on this topic,” Latham said. “But also possibly show some documentaries here on this topic just to bring awareness to what’s going on and to educate the community about the human rights crisis on the border.”

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