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The Ambivalent State: Police-Trafficker Collusion at the Urban Margins

Wednesday April 24, 2019, from 13:30 to 15:00
Room 24.120 (First Floor). Mercè Rodoreda building 24
Research seminar

Javier Auyero (University of Texas-Austin)

Drawing upon long-term ethnographic fieldwork in a poor high-crime neighborhood of Argentina and documentary evidence from court cases involving drug traffickers and police officers, this talk examines the clandestine connections between participants in the illicit drug trade and members of the state security forces -- and their impact on skyrocketing urban violence. The presentation unpacks the much-referred to (but seldom scrutinized) content of police-criminal collusion reconstructing the resources, relational practices, and processes at its core. The talk makes its three-fold argument  by way of empirical demonstration: a) illicit relationships between police agents and traffickers serve the latter to achieve a quasi-monopoly in the use of force over a territory that is central to the prosecution of their illegal trade, b) clandestine relationships between police officers and traffickers feed the systemic violence that characterizes the market of illegal drugs and contributes to localized violence, and c) police-trafficker collusion fosters widespread skepticism about law-enforcement among residents of low-income violent neighborhoods.

Check all the forthcoming Research Seminars.

Javier Auyero is the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long professor in Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas-Austin, and is the current director of the Urban Ethnography Lab at UT-Austin. His main areas of research, writing and teaching are urban politics and marginality and ethnographic methods. Auyero is the author of Poor People’s Politics (Duke University Press, 2000) Contentious Lives (Duke University Press, 2003), Routine Politics and Violence in Argentina (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Patients of the State (Duke University Press, 2012), Flammable. Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown (co-authored with Débora Swistun, Oxford University Press, 2009), and In Harm’s Way. The Uses and Forms of Interpersonal Violence at the Urban Margins (co-authored with María Fernanda Berti, Princeton University Press, 2015). Together with anthropologists Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois, he is the editor of Violence at the Urban Margins (Oxford University Press, 2015). He is also the editor of Invisible in Austin (University of Texas Press, 2015), a collective project with graduate students. You can check the website of the book here.