Criminal Actors in the Americas Conference

Friday, April 1, 2016, Union South, Industry Room, 3rd Floor, 9:00am-4:00pm


Over the last several decades, the emergence of various criminal non-state armed actors (militias, drug-trafficking cartels, youth gangs, prison gangs, smuggling networks and vigilante groups) have brought heightened levels of violence to the Americas and undermined traditional state authority across the region. This mini-conference brings together a group of scholars who are seeking to understand the history, dynamics, and policy implications of this increasingly complicated landscape. We will approach this topic from a diverse set of conceptual and theoretical backgrounds and employ a wide range of methodological approaches. Overall, this conference is designed as an opportunity to accumulate findings, stimulate dialogue in the study of these phenomena, interrogate long-held assumptions, and innovate new strategies and frameworks for investigating violence and criminal actors across the Americas.

Event Schedule: 

Panel 1: 9:00am - 11:00am

Nicholas Barnes, UW-Madison, "The Politics of Violence: How and Why Criminal Violence is Political"

Desmond Arias, George Mason University, "Policy Process Amid Armed Organizations"

Guillermo Trejo, Notre Dame University, "Breaking State Impunity in Post-authoritarian Regimes: Why Transitional Justice Processes Deter Criminal Violence in New Democracies"

Coffee Break: 11:00am-11:15am

Panel 2: 11:15am - 12:45pm

Eduardo Moncada, Barnard College-Columbia University, "Varieties of Vigilantism: Conceptual Discord, Meaning and Strategies"

Michael Weintraub, Binghamton University, (SUNY) "Vigilante Mobilization and Local Order: Evidence from Mexico" 

Lunch: 12:45pm - 1:45pm 

Panel 3: 1:45pm - 3:45pm

Sarah Daly, Notre Dame University, "Turf War or Truce: Balance of Power, Information Asymmetries, and Bargaining Among Criminal Gangs"

Benjamin Lessing, The University of Chicago, "Legitimate Criminals: How to Build and Empire Behind Bars"

Bradley Holland, The Ohio State University "Stationary Bandits in the Streets: Gangs, Illicit Market Fragmentation, and Social Order in Chicago"

Concluding Remarks and Refreshments: 3:45pm - 4:30pm


Registration & Event Details:

To register, please click HERE.

Lunch will be provided on a first come, first serve basis

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information and any questions please contact Nicholas Barnes at

Sponsored by: the Political Science Department, Global Legal Studies Center, the Human Rights Program, and has been generously funded by LACIS and the Anonymous fund.

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