Globalization, Violence and Security

Local Impacts of Regional Integration

by Shirlita Espinosa (Volume editor) Antonella Fazio (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 211 Pages


This collection is a great contribution to the field of violence and security studies. It presents six comparative, cross-regional analyses of violence and security, with both theoretical contributions and empirical researches conducted in Mexico, Morocco, Colombia, South Africa and Brazil. The book looks at violence and security within the broader contexts of globalization and regionalization as forces that shape the way discourses are understood with very concrete real-life consequences. Articles in the collection also discuss identity politics, indigenous cultures, race and ethnicity, and mass media in relation to violence and security. The book is uniquely tri-lingual with articles written in English, Spanish and French, and it also includes a preface by RISC president Harlan Koff.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface: Harlan Koff
  • Part 1 Violence and the Production of Knowledge
  • Violence: Global Solutions to a Global Problem?: Vanessa Barolsky
  • Aportes de la televisión a la formación ciudadana en el contexto de las violencias del sistema de salud en Colombia: Claudia Puerta Silva & Alejandro Agudelo Calle
  • Part 2 Violence and the City
  • Ciudad, conflicto y paz en Colombia1: Carlos Mario Perea
  • From the Desire to Live to the Readiness to Kill. The Result of Legal and Extra-legal Punitive Practices Involving Children and Adolescents in Rio de Janeiro: Joana Domingues Vargas & Natasha Elbas Neri
  • Part 3 Violence, Identities and Development
  • Regional Mining Identities vs. Multinational Mining Interests. The End of Traditional Small-scale Gold Mining in Marmato (Caldas, Colombia): Robert V.H. Dover, Paula A. Hinestroza Blandón & Gloria Patricia Lopera Mesa
  • Analyse comparée du phénomène de la violence contre les migrants au Maroc et au Mexique, pris dans le contexte des processus d’intégration régionale: Émeline Nanga
  • About the Authors
  • Series index

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Harlan KOFF

On 8 January 2016, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, known universally as “El Chapo,” was arrested by Mexican authorities during a raid in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. The arrest of one of the world’s most recognized leaders of organized crime was celebrated by state officials in Mexico and the United States, amongst others as an important victory in the “war on drugs.” While the symbolism of this arrest is significant, it is important to maintain perspective. Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of Mexico, has received some criticism amongst the applause for the recapture of El Chapo for celebrating the importance of this arrest too prominently. In an article for CNN, award-winning author Don Winslow wrote:

Anytime a major “kingpin” is captured, we see it as a victory in the war on drugs. We could decorate a long wall with posters of former kingpins: Miguel Angel Gallardo, Carlos Lehder, Griselda Blanco, Frank Lucas, Benjamin Arellano-Felix, Pablo Escobar of recent “Narcos” fame, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the former “Lord of the Skies”, Osiel Cardenas and now Joaquin Guzman. I indulge in a list because it’s instructive. Each of these captures was supposed to bring victory in the war on drugs and each of these victories has resulted in absolutely nothing. (<http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/08/opinions/winslow-el-chapo-capture/>).

In fact, if historical trends hold true, then the newest arrest of El Chapo may actually increase violence in Mexico rather than diminish it in the same way that the killings of Pablo Escobar in 1993 and Osama bin-Laden in 2011 led to power vacuums that actually increased violence related to drug trafficking in Colombia and Islamic terrorism.

Winslow’s statement, cited above, reminds us that the “war on drugs” is a never-ending conflict. Recent scholarship on this subject has informed this position in detail. For example, in the RISC Consortium’s 2008 volume, Perspectivas Comparativas sobre el Liderazgo, Maria de Lourdes Dieck Assad and Jacobo Ramirez (2009) criticized then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s war on drug trafficking for attempting to address this problem through military tactics. Their chapter contended that Mexico’s drug war is linked to social cohesion problems in the country and that only policies that focus on these underlying causes of ← 9 | 10 → Mexico’s recent drug-related violence could effectively improve security issues in the country.

This volume focuses on violence and security in a similar way. While discussions centered on organized crime, trafficking and terrorism grab headlines, they also limit debates on these subjects. The world has witnessed a securitization of politics since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Terrorist attacks in Europe, most recently in Paris on 13 November 2015 have contributed to the global reach of the securitization of politics. The year 2016 has further extended attention to terrorism as attacks have occurred in Jakarta, Indonesia and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

We must ask, however, whether we are not oversimplifying policy responses to insecurity and violence. National leaders in many parts of the world, such as Mexico, have declared wars on drugs and terror. Moreover, debates over migration in most advanced industrial states have been infused with protectionist discourses related to security. Even emerging states, such as South Africa, have reacted defensively in the face of immigration and such nativist positions have contributed to high-profile episodes of violence. Like Dieck Assad and Ramirez, numerous authors have indicated that the securitization of politics has led to violent responses from organized crime and terrorism and increased human vulnerability (see Dunn, 1996). Rather than pursuing security by reinforcing social cohesion in places characterized by violence, contemporary policy-responses usually focus specifically on violence and often this means the securitization of non-security policy arenas, such as development (see Gabrielli, 2007), migration (see Cornelius et al., 2004), border policies, (see Andreas, 2000) etc. This scholarship reminds us that violence and security are not synonyms but separate conceptual paradigms and political realities. In short, insecurity breeds violence and by focusing specifically on the latter, policy-makers are oversimplifying security issues.

Our political focus on violence has also led to the reinforcement of what Michel Foucault (1986) calls “areas of fracture,” defined as policies that highlight power differences between developed and developing states. These fractures are very important for our understanding of violence. Popular images of violence generally associate it with underdevelopment and poverty. However, recent trends indicate that this is not necessarily true. Terrorism, organized crime and trafficking are multibillion dollar industries where participant organizations resemble multinational corporations more than gangs. Emerging economies often foster organized crime because of the presence of a dangerous mix of weak state institutions, political parties and leaders that lack legitimacy, ← 10 | 11 → the establishment of international distribution channels, cutting edge technology in illicit criminal markets, and most importantly, increasingly prominent social divides as development often leads to the concentration of capital in particular sub-regions or amongst specific groups (see Weisbront, Lefebvre and Sammult, 2014). Countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Colombia, Turkey, Indonesia, etc. are witnessing unprecedented levels of economic development combined with more prominent social cleavages. For example, South America is a region witnessing elevated economic growth rates combined with increasing social divisions (as evidenced by the highest Gini coefficient scores in the world) and rising homicide rates (see Ascher and Mirovitskaya, 2012). For this reason, the current literature on violence focuses heavily on these countries “in transition” (see for example, Mickunas, 2016) and this scholarship suggests that insecurity and violence seem to be characteristics of contemporary development models more than symptoms of underdevelopment. This point is a common thread that links the articles included in this volume.

This observation is also highly relevant for our understanding of development in contemporary affairs because the world has witnessed increasing securitization of development cooperation despite universal agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, which focus on “transformative development” aimed at promoting equity in the world. One problem related to these “international objectives” is that they are undermined by “transnational policies.” To begin with, the regionalization of development cooperation has securitized non-security policy arenas across national borders. This has occurred within regions as organizations such as the European Union (EU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have developed further-reaching regional security strategies.

More importantly, important development donors, such as the European Union and the United States (US) have securitized development aid through the introduction of conditionality in aid and trade agreements. Scholarship on the Union for Mediterranean (see Carrera, Den Hertog, and Parkin, 2012), EU development aid to African regions and states (see Fisher and Anderson, 2015) and US development aid programs in Mexico and Central America (see Sandoval, 2006) have generally indicated that development aid has been utilized to promote foreign policy objectives related to security rather than vice versa.

The RISC Consortium has critically analyzed the relationships between social cohesion, development and security since its establishment in 2007 because it recognizes the intrinsic relationship between violence and economic development models that do not account for social cohesion. ← 11 | 12 → Growth without cohesion leads to social divisions that inevitably impact security, which leads to increased violence. RISC’s working group on “Conflict, Violence and Citizen Security” based in the Instituto de Estudios Políticos of the Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia has organized various events and published empirical research on the importance of social cohesion to the success of security strategies. RISC has also organized a conference for the Latin Americanists of Belgium and Luxembourg (LABEL) on “Human and Environmental Security in Cross-Border Regions: Multidisciplinary Approaches in Latin America” which highlighted the need to understand socio-economic transformations that globalization has fostered in cross-border regions in Latin America. These developments, such as the emergence of the maquiladora industry along the US-Mexico border, have contributed to contexts of violence, such as the femicide which has been occurring in and around Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

In fact, this research agenda indicates that broader security policies are better placed to address violence than the narrow “wars” (on drugs, terror, trafficking, etc.) that seem to guide much policy. In 2014, RISC organized different events on human and environmental security in cross-regional perspective. These seminars and publications highlighted the importance of implementing transnational human and environmental security strategies through regional development aimed at reinforcing social cohesion and human rights. This approach contends that the militarization of development and border policies actually exacerbate human insecurity and violence by contributing to the proliferation of social cleavages (see Koff and Maganda, 2016).

This volume is an important contribution to RISC’s ongoing agenda on violence and security issues and their relationship to development and social cohesion. It results from the consortium’s 2012 International Conference on “Globalization, Violence and Security: Local Impacts of Regional Integration” which was organized by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) and the Technólogico de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico City. This conference examined the decisive impacts and proposed local, regional and global solutions to insecurity and violence in comparative perspective. The starting point was a risk agenda impacting countries and regions which challenges capabilities to integrate social answers and public agendas responding to critical issues such as trafficking in drugs, humans, weapons, organs and money, as well as decisive factors such as inequality, exclusion, and a lack of opportunities. Some of the features that contemporary societies share are: a) inability or weakening of the State to keep control over the territory as well as the monopoly of the legitimate use of force; b) penetration or cooptation of State institutions by criminal organizations, c) the fragility of citizens fearful of both assaults by criminal groups and by the inability ← 12 | 13 → of the State to guarantee their rights, d) growing social stratification and segmentation in the illicit drug “consumption” countries, in addition to scarce citizen participation in response to public health problems and criminality, e) the lack of responsibility taken by countries and regions characterized by consumption, of drugs, organs, and prostitution and the sale of weapons for the systemic impacts of their actions, and f) lack of standards, institutions as well as regional and global public policies with a comprehensive perspective for reducing violence and insecurity. RISC thanks Dr. Bernardo González-Aréchiga and Dr. Elena Azaola Garrido who were the main scientific organizers and intellectual promoters of the event.

The following chapters build on the aforementioned themes. The first two contributions, by Vanessa Barolsky, and Claudia Puerta Silva and Alejandro Agudelo Calle address the speed of violence through political and cultural transmission. Barolsky presents an analysis of the discursive production of knowledge on violence. Her research investigates published reports on violence by international agencies that define what violence is and how much violence there is globally. Barolsky rightly questions the legitimacy of these reports and how a scientific study of violence is very much influenced by regimes of knowledge surrounding violence. She particularly points out that the anxiety to relentlessly secure the developed world has burdened the “violent” global South. This is followed by Puerta Silva and Agudelo Calle’s chapter on the intersection between Colombia’s television shows as civic education and the state of the public health system. The chapter reflects on the results of a study in 2012 that involves an analysis of four television programs and semi-structured interviews with viewers of these programs. The authors argue that while television programs have the potential to educate citizens, they are focused on the disease and its prevention and do not sufficiently address Colombia’s health system and its failures which the authors see as a form of structural violence that hurt Colombians.

This section is followed by two chapters that specifically discuss violence in urban contexts in emerging states. Carlos Mario Perea Restrepo examines the relationship between violent conflict, the city and the peace process between the Colombian government and FARC that began in 2012. He argues that the agenda of the peace process does not include any reference to urban violence. This omission is very telling of what could potentially fail in the peace process in cities where three-quarters of Colombians. These urban places have witnessed intense and prolonged violence. While the rural-focused peace process agreement is understandable due to the weight of historical factors, the author posits that the necessity to include the city must not be overlooked. Addressing inequalities and violence in the city may greatly deepen the positive social changes for which the peace process is aiming. ← 13 | 14 →

Joana Vargas and Natasha Elbas Neri then present a chapter on extra-judicial punitive practices of young adults in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The research presents statistics and interviews with young offenders to show the intense violence confronting young people of the favelas in Brazil. The authors argue that police violence in Brazilian favelas harm mostly black and mixed-race male youths and that it is a result of social inequalities and the lack of the political will of the state to solve the problem. Furthermore, the elite political class uses the fear of crime and urban violence to gain leverage.

Finally, part three of the book presents two chapters that link violence with identity issues and development. Robert Dover, Paula Andrea Hinestroza and Gloria Patricia Lopera Mesa present a study of development and violence related to regional and multinational mining identities in Colombia. Presented here are the findings from an 18-month project in Marmato where large scale resource extraction and infrastructure development threaten to affect indigenous communities. In particular the illegalization of traditional mining threatens to undermine of the way of life for these populations. The authors argue that events in Marmato created a transformation in local identities as well, which may either be adaptation to the rules of the new actors or resistance against them. Finally, the collection presents Emeline Nanga’s chapter discussing the different types of violence that migrants endure in Mexico and Morocco within the context of regional integration. Nanga’s work focuses on the political pressures that emerging states, such as Morocco and Mexico receive to securitize migration, which leads to increased violence against migrants in these new receiving/transit states.

These studies present differing perspectives on violence, its meaning, transmission mechanisms and its relationship to development. Together, they present a comparative view of this salient issue in contemporary global affairs.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (September)
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 211 pp., 76 graphs, 14 tables

Biographical notes

Shirlita Espinosa (Volume editor) Antonella Fazio (Volume editor)

Shirlita Espinosa worked as postdoctoral researcher with RISC based in the University of Luxembourg from 2013 to 2015. She is an academic who has worked in Asia, Australia and Europe. Her research interests include migration and development, race and ethnicity, multiculturalism and Southeast Asia. Antonella Fazio has a BA and MA in economics from the Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia) and PhD in History and Civilization at the European University Institute (EUI) of Florence focusing on economic history. In 2014 she was a postdoctoral researcher in the department of Economics at Universidad de los Andes and then she worked as advisor for the City Council of Bogotá. Her research interests include institutions, development, education and economic history.


Title: Globalization, Violence and Security
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218 pages