Deparment of Sociology Colloquium Series presentation by Javier Auyero, University of Texas at Austin, Urban Ethnography Lab.
Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in a poor high-crime neighborhood and documentary evidence from a court case involving a drug-trafficker group in Argentina, this article examines the clandestine connections between participants in the illicit drug trade and members of state security forces. The article unpacks the much-referred to (but seldom scrutinized) content of police-criminal collusion by tracing the flow of goods and information between police agents and traffickers. We find that a) illicit relationships serve traffickers to achieve control over a territory that is central to their illegal trade, b) clandestine relationships between cops and traffickers feed violence experienced at the urban margins, and c) police-traffickers collusion fosters widespread skepticism about law-enforcement among residents of low-income neighborhoods. This paper makes three scholarly contributions. First, it expands on the literature on the opaque relationships between drug trade participants and agents of the state. Second, it extends the scholarship on drug-related violence to a heretofore under-examined social and geographical universe, and refines the argument about that relationship by scrutinizing the clandestine participation of state actors. Third, it examines police complicity with illegal market participants as one under-explored source of legal cynicism.