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Varieties of Hidden Orders

Sat, September 1, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Hynes, 210


This paper explores the varieties of political orders that arise from illegal trans-border trades. Specifically, it aims to understand how gangs, mafias, insurgents, and other groups involved in criminal activities operate across borders and identify the different types of bargains, rent-seeking strategies, and governance arrangements these non-state actors develop with state actors. Conventional scholarship on globalization focuses on the weakening of territorial borders, and the difficulties that states face in restricting the flows of goods and services. However, what is often overlooked about borders is how they also demarcate differences in the rules of adjacent administrative areas as well as a state’s capacity to enforce such rules. For lucrative trades (in arms, drugs, humans), when do these cross-border differences in regulation become economic opportunities for organized criminals, gangs and mafias? When do police forces and politicians convert these regulatory differences into rents? When do state and non-state actors collaborate to produce these “hidden orders”; and when do they compete or not cooperate? To address these questions, we examine the production and transportation of illegal and semi-illegal commodities across the Burmese, Thai, and Chinese borderlands as well as the border between the provinces of North Sumatra and wartime Aceh in Indonesia.


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