Gabriella Soto

About Gabriella Soto

My training is as a contemporary archaeologist, through which I use modern material culture to better understand social life in the present-day. In addition to training in archaeological methods, I am trained in ethnographic methods, archival research, and GIS to use digital map data to create and analyze socio-spatial issues. 

Selected Publications

under review, "Migration Dialectics and the 'Funnel Effect': A material culture approach to border security on the Arizona-Sonora border, 2000-present." Submitted to Political Geography.  

under review, "Object Afterlives and the Burden of History: Between “trash” and “heritage” in the footsteps of migrants. Submitted to American Anthropologist. 

forthcoming, "Cartographic Research." In S. Hart, T.J. Ferguson and M.T. Hopkins (Eds.) O'odham Trails on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: The Western and Central Travel Corridors. University of Arizona, School of Anthropology: Tucson, Arizona. 

2017, "Place-Making in Non-Places: Migrant Graffiti in Rural Highway Box Culverts" Journal of Contemporary Archaeology special migration issue. 

2017, The Geography of Migrant Death: Implications for Policy and Forensic Science. Invited submission to A. O'Daniel and K. Latham (Eds.) Sociopolitics of Migrant Death and Repatriation: Perspectives from Forensic Science. New York: Springer. First author with D. Martinez. 

2017, "Documentation and Condition Assessment: Compound A, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument." Project No. UAZDS-410. Report prepared on behalf of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, National Park Service. Drachman Institute, University of Arizona. Third author with L. Jensen and G. Miller. 

2016, "Migrant Memento Mori and the Geography of Risk" Journal of Social Archaeology 16(3). 

2016, "Trauma, Things, and Collective Action: A Photographic Survey of the January 8, 2011 Vernacular Shrine at University Medical Center" Arizona Anthropologist. Discourses on Death edition: 76-99.

2016 Arizona Anthropologist. Discourses on Death Edition. Editors: Phelps, D.O. and G. Soto

2015, "Dear Gang: A History of the Atlatl and 100 Years of Anthropological Community" Arizona Anthropologist. Centennial edition: 1-20. 

2015 Arizona Anthropologist. Centennial Edition. Editors: Phelps, D.O. and G. Soto

2015 Arizona Anthropologist. Notes from the Field Edition. Editors: Storey, A., D.O. Phelps, and G. Soto

2014, "Protocol Development for the Standardization of Identification and Examination of UBC Bodies Along the U.S.-Mexico Border: A Best Practicies Manual," Contributor in a Report issued by the Binational Migration Institute 

2014, "Expanding Toolkits for Heritage Perpetuation: The Western Apache Ethnography and Geographic Information Science Research Experience for Undergraduates" Journal of Applied Geospatial Research (fourth author with K. Hoerig, T.J. Ferguson, and J. Welch)

2014, "The U.S.-Mexico Border Fence." In Undocumented Immigrants in the United States Today: An Encyclopedia of their Experiences. Anna Ochoa O'Leary, Ed. ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Press. 

2012, "Beneath the Waves: Conflict Landscape of the Baltic Sea." In Beyond the Dead Horizon: Studies in Modern Conflict Archaeology. Nicholas Saunders, Ed. Oxbow. 

2010, The Undocumented Landscape: Transience and Subsistence at the U.S.-Mexico Border. Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of Bristol. 


"Local Laws/Foreign Bodies: Postmortem care for undocumented migrants in the United States." invited submission in Law and the Public-Private Dichotomy: Rights, at the annual International Meeting on Law and Society. Second author with R. Rubio-Goldsmith. (Mexico City--June 2017). 

"Microhistories of the 'Funnel Effect': Tracing the banal materialities of U.S. border enforcement, 2000-present." at the annual meeting for the Society of American Archaeology.  (Vancouver, Canada--March 2017)

“The Lives of Others: On Traces Left Behind in the Arizona Borderlands." in The Dialectics of Power and Points of Escape: Refugees, Undocumented Migrants, and Survivors panel discussion co-organized by Gabriella Soto and Abby Wheatley at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. (Minneapolis--November 2016)

“Enunciative Walking: Illegality, Prevention through Deterrence, and the Arizona-Mexico Border, Results from Phase 1” at the Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Conference. (Vancouver, Canada – April 2016)

“Problematizing Resistance: A Multidisciplinary Workshop on Informal Political Action and Scholarly Praxis.” Workshop and panel discussion co-organized by Sophie Alves, Jesus-Jaime Diaz, Sofia Gomez, and Gabriella Soto in Resistance: Borders and Power, Social Justice and Community at the 44th Annual Conference of the National Association for Ethnic Studies. (Tucson – March 2016)

"Protocol Development for the Standardization of Identification and Examination of UBC Bodies Along the U.S.-Mexico Border: A Best Practicies Manual." Invited paper for panel discussion, "Life, Death, and Mass Incarceration at the Border" sponsored by the Binational Migration Institute and Coalicíon de Derechos Humanos. (Tucson - March 2016)

"Socioeconomics and Death Investigation on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Mapping the Impact of Social Vulnerabilities for the Identification of Undocumented Border Crosser Remains." Invited paper presentation in The Geographies of Civic Engagement: Mapping Community Organization and Collaboration in Efforts to Identify and Enumerate the Dead Along the U.S.-Mexico Border at theannual meeting of the Rocky Mountain Association for Latin American Scholars (Tucson - May 2015)

"Archaeology and Activism on the U.S.-Mexico Border: The role of archaeological methods and mapping to facilitate migrant search and rescue" Invited paper for the Migration Research Dialogues lecture series, hosted by the Binational Migration Institute (Tucson - November 2014)

“When Death Comes Knocking: The Role of Geography and Civic Engagement in Efforts to Identify and Enumerate the Dead Along the U.S.-Mexico Border” With Dr. Ana Ochoa O’Leary. Invited paper presentation and panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Latin American Studies Association (Washington, D.C. - June 2013)

Contested Space: Materiality of an undocumented cross-border journey” Invited paper presentation and panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Latin American Studies Association (Washington, D.C. - June 2013)

"Archaeology on a Clandestine Landscape: The U.S.-Mexico Border” paper presentation and panel discussion in The CHAT Olympiad at the annual meeting of the Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory Group (York, UK 2012)

“Crossing the Line: Undocumented Migration as Collective Action” paper presentation and panel discussion in The Archaeology of Contemporary Protest Movements at the annual meeting of the Theoretical Archaeology Group – USA (Buffalo 2012)

“What’s Left: An Archaeology of Undocumented Migration at the U.S. Mexico Border” Invited paper presentation in Putting People in Places: Negotiating Tenuous Relations in Space at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (Baltimore 2012)

“Practical Politics on the Migration Trail” paper presenter and session chair in the General Session: Below the Surface and Beyond the Stereotype at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology (Baltimore 2012)

“The Transient Heritage of Undocumented Migration” paper presentation in Within and Without: Long Distance Interactions, Culture Change and Culture Contact in Arizona at the fall conference of the Arizona Archaeological Council (Tucson 2011)

Press Coverage of Research

Trevizo, P. (2015, June 7) "UA researchers seek standard in handling border deaths." Arizona Daily Star.



Courses Taught

I have teaching experience in multiple subdisciplines of Anthropology and in related social science fields, including: Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Art History, and Classics

Areas of Study

U.S.-Mexico border region


Casa Grande Ruins Stabilization Project, 2015-2017

Research Assistant. This Drachman Institute research project was commissioned by the National Park Service. The aim of the project is to document all archival stabilization plans and projects at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, from the turn of the 20th century to present. The result will be an interactive map interface in which these historical efforts may be visually tracked. 

Undocumented Migration Survey Project, 2010-present

Principal Investigator. Survey and documentation of trails and artifacts associated with undocumented migration into the United States via the shared border with Mexico. Project analyzes migration corridors as an on-the-ground approach to what is known as "The Funnel Effect," being the effects of the Border Patrol's efforts to utilize geography to deter migration and the resultant surge in deaths of those identified as undocumented border crossers. 

Arizona Anthropologist student journal, 2011-present

Co-editor-in-chief. As a student journal, this publication provides a forum for the discussion of the knowledge-creation process underlying anthropological fieldwork. The journal hosts symposia to discuss these topics. In fall 2015, the journal will release a special edition issue in honor of the University of Arizona School (nee Department) of Anthropology's centennial year. It includes personal memorial pieces, research on Arizona history, as well as archival photos and ephemera. 

Salt Trail Survey Project, 2014-2015

Research Assistant. Survey and documentation of historic trails and artifacts associated with the Salt Pilgrimage into Mexico, undertaken by O'odham groups from prehistory through the present within the boundaries of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. My role included the building of a GIS database to serve project needs, as well as georeferencing historic maps and other data whose location could be inferred based on attached geographic information. 

Protocol Development for the Standardization of Identification and Processing of UBC Bodies Along the U.S.-Mexico Border, 2012-2014

Research Assistant. Department of Justice funded study undertaked by the Binational Migration Institute used mixed methods to research practices by law enforcement and medical examiners in counties across the U.S.-Mexico border region, focuing on the processes of identifying undocumented migrant deaths. The resultant best practice manual is meant to standardize the otherwise diverse and often informal standards of practice by local official in regards to remains processing. 

Ethnography and GIS Field School at the White Mountain Apache Reservation, 2012-2013

Teaching assistant. Working towards the creation of White Mountain Apache Cultural Atlas, the field school brought together undergraduate researchers and community members of the White Mountain Apache tribe to record data on history and traditions of tribal members. My role was to aid undergraduate researchers as they conducted ethnographic research, and assist them in working with GIS software. 

Maison Blanche Cave Excavation, The Durand Group, 2009-2010

Field Technician. Survey and preservation of Maison Blanche cave graffiti associated with Canadian infantry during the First World War. 

Research Interests

U.S. Mexico Border, borders and border crossings, immigration, informal politics, contemporary archaeology, garbology, landscape archaeology, materiality, absence, marginality, power, violence, necropolitics, infrastructure, heritage, modernity, ruins, GIS

Gabriella Soto's picture


MA with Distinction in 20th Century Conflict Archaeology - University of Bristol, 2010

BA in History and International Relations - Wellesley College, 2008

Dissertation Title

The Border Enforcement “Funnel Effect”: A Material Culture Approach to Border Security on the Arizona-Sonora Border, 2000-Present