On April 9th, I successfully defended my PhD thesis at the Fletcher School. The thesis is titled “From Contraband to Conflict Links between Smuggling and Violence in the Borderlands of Meso-America and North Africa.”
The following is the abstract:
“In the wake of the Cold War, the global illicit economy surged. Contraband commodity chains now cross borders, nations, and sometimes continents. Smuggling is mainly a peaceful pursuit, conducted by large numbers of men, women, and children, each of whom earns only limited rewards for their efforts. Rather than seeking to end the contraband trade, government officials often seek to profit from it.
However, in a small number of instances, smuggling has transformed into something far more violent and dangerous. Tens of thousands have been killed in “crime wars” in Mexico and Central America over the last twenty years, conflicts that frequently mirror civil wars in their intensity and transgressive use of violence. At other points across the globe, similar conflicts linked to smuggling percolate. This investigation represents an effort to analyze and understand how and why smuggling ecosystems that have been peaceful and controlled transform into situations of violent conflict.
The investigation builds a new theory by modifying theoretic tools developed to explain the impact of primary commodity extraction and applies it to smuggled goods in transit. It utilizes a diverse range of case studies, including the U.S.-Mexico, Mexico-Guatemala, Tunisia-Algeria, and Algeria-Morocco borders.”
The next steps will involve adapting the academic text into a book.