From cuaz to cuate: Training camps for organized crime

For years now - more or less the entire duration of my doctoral studies - I have been intrigued by the fact that some organized crime groups in Mexico operate training camps. In one form or another, I worked this in to most of my course papers. Once I was done with coursework and working… Continue reading From cuaz to cuate: Training camps for organized crime

A narco-list of narco-fied narco-words

Last year, I assembled a database of narco-messages. Towards the end of this process, while I was poring over articles from a Guadalajara-based newspaper, I decided to keep track of the narco-fied terms that I came across. These articles were from the early years of the war on narco-trafficking (which started in December 2006), when… Continue reading A narco-list of narco-fied narco-words

Poverty, inevitability, and synthetic clothing

When I arrived back in Mexico City in January, everyone was talking about the lines for gas. Recently-inaugurated president López Obrador shut down parts of the national oil and gas distribution network to combat oil theft. I enjoyed the memes doing the rounds, but didn't think too much more about gas. In the days after… Continue reading Poverty, inevitability, and synthetic clothing

Violence as a message / Violence plus a message

I study a phenomenon that, according to the prevailing paradigm in scholarship on violence, really shouldn't exist. The huge volume of work that seeks to identify logics underpinning seemingly random or inexplicably brutal acts of violence very often explain these excesses in terms of their communicative value. Perpetrating violence is a costly signal; perpetrating grotesquely… Continue reading Violence as a message / Violence plus a message

Puzzling over a massacre

"There is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre."Kurt Vonnegut For about three years now, I have been trying to find something intelligent to say about a massacre. I am not sure that I have made much progress, but I have just submitted my most recent attempt to a journal, so I guess we will… Continue reading Puzzling over a massacre

Narco-messages in Mexico City

About two weeks before I moved to Mexico City to start my field research, a narco-message appeared over a major street in the city. This was a big deal; while thousands of these messages have appeared in cities and towns throughout the country, Mexico City is one of those places in which messages are regarded… Continue reading Narco-messages in Mexico City

Faces and masks

A recurring concern in most of my research is the relationship between legitimacy and violence. How do armed groups justify their violence? If every armed group - including state agencies - depends upon a degree of local support, why do so many groups engage in risky, potentially costly behaviour, by targeting or preying on civilians?… Continue reading Faces and masks

Is Mexico facing a criminal insurgency?

The high levels of violence in Mexico defy the usual scholarly explanations. Organized crime is supposed to fly under the radar, and not let violence interfere with profit. Insurgents are more likely to go public with violence, but do so in pursuit of a clear political agenda. Neither of these paradigms reflect the realities of… Continue reading Is Mexico facing a criminal insurgency?