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Criminal Governance in Comparative Perspective

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

Session Submission Type: Full Paper Panel

Session Description

Research on political violence focuses primarily on inter-state war and civil conflict. But recognition of the complex challenges that criminal violence poses for development and democracy is fueling a proliferation of research on the politics of criminal violence. The central objective of this panel is to build on this emerging research by bringing together empirically grounded and theoretically innovative analyses of different forms of governance under criminal rulers. In parallel with recent findings from research on “rebel governance,” a key assertion of this panel is that settings of intense criminal violence are not necessarily anarchic. These spaces can instead exhibit diverse relations between criminal actors, social groups, and state authorities that collectively shape and sustain surprisingly robust informal institutional arrangements of governance. The panelists interrogate puzzling variation in the nature of these forms of criminal governance across distinct empirical settings and their equally differential implications for a range of outcomes, including political order, economic development, and citizenship.

Holland analyzes gang violence in Southern California using a novel computational model and rich qualitative data from in-depth process tracing. The resulting analysis both engages and challenges prominent assumptions in the literature on ethnic violence by showing how a focus on the structure of social networks can offer new insights into the conditions under which interethnic conflicts lead to violence. Kim and Tajima shift the focus to the governing arrangements that criminal actors build to facilitate illicit trans-border trades across the Burmese, Thai, and Chinese borderlands as well as the border between the provinces of North Sumatra and wartime Aceh in Indonesia. The paper illuminates how criminal actors, at times in coordination with state actors, leverage variation in regulatory regimes across borders to govern illicit economies. Turnbull takes up the critical question of why some armed groups opt to build governing institutions in local communities whereas others do not. To tackle this question the paper offers a structured comparative analysis using interviews conducted during fieldwork, primary materials, and an original survey to explain variation in the governing arrangements that armed groups in Nigeria have constructed over time. Moncada rounds out the panel with a study of social resistance to criminal protection rackets that draws on data collected through focus groups and interviews with the victims of protection rackets in El Salvador, Colombia, and Mexico. The analysis concludes that variation in the economic and political resources of victims can help to account for otherwise puzzling differences in the forms of resistance they pursue, ranging from violent rebellion to quiet everyday negotiation.

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