Dr Alejandra Díaz de León is Research Officer in the Sociology Department for the project Human Rights, Human Remains: Forensic Humanitarianism and the Politics of the Grave. She holds a PhD in Sociology and an MA in Human Rights from the University of Essex and was most recently a fellow at the Center for US-Mexican Studies USMEX at the University of California, San Diego and a visiting researcher at UC MEXUS, at the University of California, Riverside.
Her research focuses on human rights, solidarity, and on the creation of bonds, trust, and cooperation among strangers during contexts of violence and uncertainty, like the transit of Central Americans through Mexico to the United States. She has conducted ethnographic research on Guatemala, the southern and northern borders of Mexico and the Sonoran Desert, in the United States. This multi-situated ethnography allowed her to “follow” the migrants and observe them at different stages of their journey.
Her research advances the knowledge of transit migration, an understudied but important stage in the migration process. It expands the literatures on social networks, social capital and trust, and migration by showing that while preexisting social ties rarely reduce the costs of migrating for Central American migrants, social networks remain a fundamental part of the migration process as transit migrants are able to improve their chances of succeeding by forming new bonds and cooperating with other migrants who they meet “on the road.” Her findings reveal that solidarity, bonding, and trust are indeed created in contexts of extreme violence and scarcity, in contrast to what scholars on crisis and catastrophes have posited.