Panel 5: Illicit Governance

Teo Ballve, Colgate University, (chair)

Abstract: Land, Territory, and Colombia’s Post-Conflict Interregnum

For decades, land and territory have been at the crux of Colombia’s still simmering armed conflict. Despite the demobilization of paramilitary groups in 2006 and the peace agreement with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) a decade later, war-torn frontier zones such as the northwest region of Urabá remain violently contested patchworks of competing, overlapping, and historically sedimented territorialities. Land and property have become key modalities of post-conflict statecraft in these supposedly “stateless” spaces. Within the context of ongoing forms of organized violence and a still-raging war on drugs, the forces of law and order fighting for control of these spaces have not so much trumped the power of violent outlaw combatant groups as become fused with them. Through an ethnographic account of a government land restitution program, this paper explores these antinomies of post-conflict statecraft in a small area of Urabá called Tulapas. Tulapas also demonstrates how the contradictions of post-conflict state formation have materialized most sharply at the scale and around the politics of “community.” Rural communities have become the site of the post-conflict’s intense and yet often hushed renegotiations of rule. From the perspective of these campesinos, Colombia’s post-conflict is less a transition from war to peace than an indefinite interregnum in which, as Gramsci had it, “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.”

Signe Marie Cold-Ravnkilde, Danish Institute for International Studies,

Abstract: Contested authority in Mali: explanatory companions to the concept of state fragility

The 2012 security crisis in Mali and the prevalence of terrorism, armed secession and organized crime in the country are the subject of a growing academic debate. The concept of state fragility is often used in policy- informed debates to explain what are supposedly the root causes of the crisis, as well as shaping Western-led interventions designed to solve it. While shedding light on important governance challenges, the concept of state fragility fails to account for how social, economic and political ties between state and non-state actors shape avenues to power and authority in conflict-ridden Mali. The article illustrates the importance of such ties by showing how, for example, jihadist groups, as significant non-state actors, offer access to new economic opportunities in areas marked by insecurity and a crisis of authority. Furthermore, by applying the concept of‘world-view analysis’, the article unpacks the interplay between the socio-political and ideational dimensions of how armed groups, including religious actors, conceptualize, achieve and legitimize authority by manoeuvring between the intersecting governance registers of controlling the illicit economy and providing protection and livelihood opportunities, as well as by exercising religiously informed violence.

Romain LeCour Grandmaisson, Pantheon-Sorbonne University,

Abstract: Drug Cartels, Extortion, and the end of Political Reciprocity?

Academic literature on organised crime in Mexico tends to suggest a systemic domination by the State over drugs cartels, followed by a neoliberal ‘retreat’ that would then lead to the current state of violence and chaos. I will present a sociological model of analysis of these criminal organisations to highlight their social, economic and political impact on the country, as well as the crucial socio-political role drugs – marihuana, cocaine and methamphetamines - play at the local level. I aim at linking the study of drugs and violence as political resources, in order to analyse the structuring process of contemporary criminal organisations in Mexico. As such, I will study how drugs represent a resource that allows those who control them to re-define local socio-political relationships based on the notion of political reciprocity (Arias 2006; 2010). My core hypothesis is that criminal organisations transform political loyalties, as well as the very notion of loyalty, through coercion and the organisation of violence, but also the transformation of the idea of politicalallegiance. The latter helps define the nature of the domination established by contemporary cartels, especially the Knight Templars (Caballeros Templarios). Such domination relies on power through patronageandpower through dependency,without implying the disappearance of the State. On the contrary, it questions and re-defines its interaction with the local population, the drug cartels being able to ‘introduce a disequilibrium in inter-dependencies, which makes [them] less dependent on others, than others towards [them]’ (Gayer, 2014). This paper is based on more than three years of fieldwork in Mexico, in territories where criminal organizations are active. It is based on dozens of interviews with local criminal, or political actors. 

Christoph Vogel, Ghent University/London School of Economics,

Abstract: Shaping markets, unmaking authority: tax governance among armed groups in eastern DRC

In the past two decades, the analysis of violent conflict and state formation have been led astray by two powerful dynamics: normative approaches clouded our capacity to account for the manifold motivations and justifications of armed politics, while positivist ones monopolized the notion of rationality as a utilitarian, individualist concept for regressions. Both co–established the idea of understanding resource extraction as a fundamental trigger of violence and war in the non–Western world. Part of a broader project focusing on the spatiality of authority in conflict – that is, how belligerents unmake their respective authority through space, scales and networks – this paper connects to research that redefines rationalities of conflict (Baczko & Dorronsoro 2018, Cramer 2002) and analyses competition over property and citizenship through how authority is unmade (Lund 2016, Hoffmann & Kirk 2013) in contexts of institutional and regulatory pluralism, as well as trajectories invoked to build claims to such authority (Mathys 2017). Looking at Masisi and Lubero, eastern DRC, this paper studies how armed groups engage local agricultural and commodity markets. Most of the region’s more than 120 belligerents (Vogel & Stearns 2018) engage in constant negotiation of local economics through the ordering of access and property rights – not seldom through armed politics, which came to be a broader modus operandi (Vlassenroot & Verweijen 2017). Yet, these ordering practices overlap between armed groups and statutory institutions. Through the prism of taxation, or – for an emic term – ‘nonconventional logistics’, this paper investigates the variety of actors, and their repertoires, aiming at unmaking authority. It tries to carve out the ways in which participants in local markets (belligerents, civilians and those in between) negotiate taxation, how they are motivated and constrained, and how this affects dynamics of state formation and authority over citizenship, access and property.