Workshop on violence and security in Latin America

The Latin American Studies Program and the Einaudi Center hosted a workshop on May, 2014 in the ILR Conference Center titled “Violence and Security in Latin America.” This day-long workshop brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars from both the social sciences and the humanities to explore the causes and consequences of violence in Latin America and the social, political, and cultural responses to insecurity.<--break->


The event brought together scholars from the social science and humanities to share their research on the causes and characteristics of violence and insecurity in different Latin American countries. In addition to the group of Cornell speakers, the event had the participation of three outstanding visitors: David Shirk from San Diego University, Ellen Moodie from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Christopher Krupa from the University of Toronto.


The workshop was divided in three panels. The first panel, titled "Counter-Narcotic Policies," had the participation of Javier Osorio, post-doctoral fellow at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies; and Gustavo Flores-Macias, Assistant Professor in the Government Department. With a particular focus on the Mexican war on drugs, the panel analyzed the role of law enforcement efforts implemented by government authorities, and the strength of the Mexican state to explain the escalation and diffusion of drug-related violence in this country.


In the second panel, titled "Trends of Violence and Justice," David Shirk, Professor of Political Science at San Diego University, discussed the challenges for conceptualizing and measuring the wave of organized criminal violence in Mexico. In addition, Janice Gallagher, PhD candidate in the Government Department, analyzed the role of civil society organizations in advancing justice for victims in the context of generalized impunity in the Mexican war on drugs.



The third panel, titled "In the Aftermath of Violence," had the participation of three leading anthropologists who have conducted extensive research in Central and South America: Chris Krupa from the University of Toronto, Ellen Moodie from the University of Illinois, and Chris Garces from Cornell's Anthropology Department. The panel discussed the incarceration experience of political prisoners in Ecuador and the current situation of high security prisons in the same country. The panel also analyzed political polarization and calls for violence in the aftermath of a contested election in El Salvador.


The workshop ended with a closing address by Fredrik Logevall, Director of the Einaudi Center and Vice Provost for International Affairs, and a key note address by Bruno Bosteels, Professor of Romance Studies at Cornell, on the philosophical origins of violence.


Schedule of the Workshop

8:30 - 9:00 Registration


9:00 - 9:15 Welcome address

Tim Devoogd, Director of Latin American Studies



9:15 - 10:45 Panel 1: Counter-Narcotic Policies


The Contagion of Drug Violence: Spatio-temporal Dynamics of the Mexican War on Drugs

Javier Osorio, Cornell University


Javier Osorio recently graduated from the Ph.D. program in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. His main research agenda is focused on disentangling the micro-dynamics behind the onset, escalation, and diffusion of drug-related violence in Mexico. To analyze these dynamics, he created a geo-referenced database of daily events of drug violence in Mexico of about 9.8 million observations. To build this database, Javier co-developed “Eventus ID,” a novel software for automated textual annotation of event data from reports written in Spanish. To conduct his research, Javier received support from the National Science Foundation; the Program of Order, Conflict and Violence at Yale University; the Social Science Research Council ─ Open Society Foundations; the United States Institute of Peace, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.



The Militarization of Anti-Drug Efforts and State Capacity: Evidence from Mexico

Gustavo Flores-Macias, Cornell University


Gustavo Flores-Macías is an assistant professor of Government at Cornell University. He received a PhD in comparative government from Georgetown University and a master’s in public policy from Duke University, where he was a Fulbright scholar. His research focuses mainly on the politics of economic reforms in the developing world, with an emphasis on Latin America. His book, After Neoliberalism? The Left and Economic Reforms in Latin America (Oxford University Press, 2012), studies the economic policies of left-of-center governments in the region, focusing on the role that party systems play in facilitating or hindering economic transformations. His work has also appeared in such journals as American Political Science Review, Comparative Politics, Journal of Democracy, Journal of Politics, Peace Review, Political Science Quarterly, and Studies in Comparative International Development, and in a number of edited volumes. Before joining Cornell, he served in Mexico’s Ministry of the Economy as director of Public Affairs in that country’s Consumer Protection Agency.


10:45 - 11:00 Coffee break


11:00 - 12:30 Panel 2: Trends of Violence and Justice


Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2013

David Shirk, University of San Diego


David A. Shirk, Ph.D., joined the University of San Diego in July 2003. Shirk’s teaching covers a wide range of subject areas, mainly concentrated in comparative politics, international political economy, Latin American studies, and U.S.-Latin American relations, with a concentration in Mexico and border politics. He conducts research on Mexican politics, U.S.-Mexican relations, and law enforcement and security along the U.S.-Mexican border. Shirk also directs the Justice in Mexico Project, which examines rule of law and security issues in Mexico. From 2003-2013, Dr. Shirk directed the Trans-Border Institute, which works to promote greater analysis and understanding of Mexico, U.S.-Mexico relations, and the U.S.-Mexico border region.


Activating Justice: Civil Society and the Struggle Against Impunity in Mexico, 2006-2012

Janice Gallagher, Cornell University


Janice Gallagher is a PhD Candidate Cornell University's Department of Government. Her dissertation, "Tipping the Scales of Justice: The Role of Citizen Action in Strengthening the Rule of Law," examines the role of insider, institutional pressure, and outsider protests in affecting the provision of justice in Mexico and Colombia. This study is part of a larger research agenda of state-civil society relations, specifically how informal institutions, relationships, and mobilization shape judicial and human rights outcomes. Gallagher received dissertation support fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Fulbright Program, and the Inter-American Foundation.


12:30 - 1:30 Lunch


1:30 - 3:30 Panel 3:  In the Aftermath of Violence


Cold War Allegory: The Prison Notebooks of Alfaro Vive Carajo (Ecuador, 1986/2007)

Chris Krupa, University of Toronto


Christopher Krupa is a social and cultural anthropologist with a research focus on Andean South America who has worked with indigenous laborers and political activists in Highland Ecuador. He is starting work with a Truth Commission in Ecuador to investigate torture and other human rights abuses in the mid-1980s, and is currently writing a book on Andean state and para-state systems. Krupa has been hired as an assistant professor in social sciences at the University of Toronto. He studies the ways that seemingly mundane aspects of power work in our daily lives - how states inspire obedience, how economic inequality is maintained, how ideas of human difference affect the political and economic work we do. He is an editorial committee member on Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, and serves on the American Ethnological Society board. "Anthropology works best when it encourages us to question things about the world we didn't even know to question," says Krupa. "I like to teach in a way that provokes curiosity and skepticism about taken-for-granted aspects of our world, exposes the making of what is taken for granted, makes connections between seemingly-unrelated activities, and inspires critical reflection on other ways of living." 


“Estamos en pie de guerra” (We’re on the brink of war): Violent attunements to democracy and elections in El Salvador (2014)

Ellen Moodie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Ellen Moodie is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work addresses violence and insecurity in Central America, with a particular focus on social suffering as it is constituted and revealed through talk, mass media, and historical archives. Much of her research has taken place in the postwar ruins of San Salvador, El Salvador, where she has carried out ethnographic fieldwork over the past twelve years. She first arrived there in 1993 expecting to learn about the changes wrought by peace accords. Moodie quickly discovered that talking about peace meant talking about crime and insecurity. She began to explore how meanings of violence and citizens’ expectations of the state—circulating in conversation, daily news, and later on the Internet— were transformed in the transition from war. The research yielded her Ph.D. dissertation and now book manuscript, “It’s Worse than the War”: Telling Everyday Danger in Postwar San Salvador.


The Ecuadorian Carceral: between State and Para-State Capture

Chris Garces, Cornell University


Chris Garces holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Princeton University.  After teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, he took up a Mellon-funded postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell in 2009 and in 2011 was welcomed into a tenure-track position in the Department of Anthropology.  His ethnographic interests range from the study of politics and religion—or contemporary political theologies—to the unchecked global development of penal state politics, and the history of Catholic humanitarian interventions in Latin America.  His journal articles have appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Anthropological Quarterly, Ecuador Debate, Criminal Justice Matters, Íconos, and Urvio. During his fellowship at the Society for the Humanities, he will be co-publishing a special journal issue on “Prison Climates in the South,” co-hosting a Central New York Humanities Corridor conference at Cornell (“Religion, Abolition, and Mass Incarceration”), and working on a book manuscript-in-progress, “The Prison Threshold: Hyper-incarceration and its Ends in Ecuador.”


3:30 - 3:45 Coffee Break


3:45 - 4:15: Keynote Address


The Politics of Originary Violence

Bruno Bosteels, Cornell University


Bruno Bosteels, Professor of Romance Studies holds a PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures from the University of Pennsylvania (1995; MA 1992), and an AB in Romance Philology from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (1989). Before coming to Cornell, he held positions as an assistant professor at Harvard University and at Columbia University. He is the author of Alain Badiou, une trajectoire polémique (La Fabrique, 2009); Badiou and Politics (Duke University Press, 2011); and The Actuality of Communism (Verso, 2011). He is currently preparing two new books: Marx and Freud in Latin America and After Borges: Literature and Antiphilosophy. He has translated Alain Badiou’s Theory of the Subject (Continuum, 2009). Further translations include Badiou’s Can Politics Be Thought? followed by Of an Obscure Disaster: On the End of the Truth of State and What Is Antiphilosophy? Essays on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Lacan (both for Duke University Press) as well as Wittgenstein’s Antiphilosophy (for Verso). He is the author of dozens of articles on modern Latin American literature and culture, and on contemporary European philosophy and political theory. His research interests further include the crossovers between art, literature, theory, and cartography; the radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s; decadence, dandyism, and anarchy at the turn between the 19th and 20th centuries; cultural studies and critical theory; and the reception of Marx and Freud in Latin America. He has also served as the general editor of Diacritics.


4:15 - 5:00 Reception