Robin Reineke

Assistant Research Social Scientist

Robin Reineke is a sociocultural anthropologist with specializations in transnational migration, science and technology studies, human rights, forensic anthropology, and the anthropology of death. Her research and fieldwork are focused on the US-Mexico border region, especially the Sonoran Desert. Dr. Reineke’s research centers on questions relating to forensics, evidence, and care, including: What qualifies as “evidence” and who has the power to create forums where evidence is presented and discussed? How are forensic methodologies employed as a critical social practice outside of state practices of policing? What can the history of forensic anthropology reveal about the history of anthropology and race and racism in the US? How has migration along the US-Mexico border changed forensic science? What are the impacts of US border militarization on local human and nonhuman communities?

Some of Dr. Reineke’s past research investigated the impact of border deaths and disappearances on immigrant communities, and the ways in which families of missing migrants have changed the practice of forensic science in the US-Mexico borderlands. From 2006 – 2020, she spent significant time working with the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, doing ethnographic research and collaborating in the development of various projects and initiatives to address the challenges of unidentified human remains and missing persons in the borderlands. These initiatives included development of the nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, which Dr. Reineke co-founded and directed from 2013 – 2019.

Dr. Reineke is currently working on her first book, The Forensics of Human Identification at the Border: An Ethnographic Study, which focuses on the experience of forensic authorities and volunteers as they navigated their work in an era of mass death along the U.S.-Mexico border. The book is particularly concerned with questions of how forensic scientists created procedures and practices in a gray zone between the law and ethics, between best practice and budget limitations, and between local and federal responsibility. Together with her research colleague Dr. Natalia Mendoza Rockwell, Dr. Reineke is currently working on a binational research project called Forensic Citizenship in the Borderlands. This visual, oral history, and ethnographic project is focused on understanding civilian forensic expertise and critical practice on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border. The project is funded by the University of Arizona Libraries Digital Borderlands Program and the ConfluenceCenter for Creative Inquiry.

Dr. Reineke is Assistant Research Social Scientist at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center and Affiliated Faculty at the School of Anthropology and at the Department of Latin American Studies. She is a 2021 Confluence Center Faculty Fellow. She was awarded the Institute for Policy Studies’ Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award and Echoing Green’s Global Fellowship both in 2014.


Recent publications:

2022 Forensic Citizenship among Families of Missing Migrants along the U.S.-Mexico Border. Citizenship Studies 0 (0): 1–17.

2021 Two Decades of Death and Disappearance along the U.S.-Mexico Border. Hot Spots, Fieldsights, October 19. Reineke, Robin C.

2021 Skeletal evidence of structural violence among undocumented migrants from Mexico and Central America. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. August. 1-22. (Jared S. Beatrice, Angela Soler, Robin C. Reineke, Daniel E. Martínez).

2021 Ambiguous Loss and Embodied Grief Related to Mexican Migrant Disappearances. Medical Anthropology 0 (0): 1–14. (Rebecca M. Crocker, Robin C. Reineke, and María Elena Ramos Tovar).