A Lecture Shared by Prof. Javier Auyero of the University of Texas at Austin

On the evening of November 18th, 2020, Prof. Javier Auyero, Professor in Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, gave an online lecture titled “The Ambient State: Policy-Criminal Collusion at the Urban Margins” to doctorate candidates at Institute of International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) and scholars interested in Latin American studies from IIAS and beyond.

Prof. Javier Auyero started the lecture with real-world conversations between the police and drug dealers overheard during field investigation, which vividly illustrate the scene of collusion between the two parties at the margins of Argentine cities. When compiling Argentine court documents and eavesdropping recordings, he found that in the past three decades, the illegal drug trade in Argentina has increased significantly. There are also records of police helping drug trade or the cases of drug dealers borrowing weapons from the National Guard. In addition, he also revealed the tension between illegal actors and national norms by depicting the interactions between Los Monos, a criminal gang in Argentine, and the police, bringing the audience into the realistic scenes in that country. Finally, Prof. Auyero elaborated how this secret relationship of collusion affects the lives of local residents and how it shapes their views on law enforcement.

During the Q&A session, around the secret relationship between the Argentine police and drug dealers, doctoral students at IIAS and participating scholars actively raised their questions to the speaker. The two parties mentioned that the crisis of police credibility also exists in other Latin American countries, trying to explain this phenomenon from the perspective of culture or system. They jointly explored whether the inaction of the police has affected the public’s attitude towards the state and the future vision for tackling the illegal drug trafficking problem in Argentina.

Prof. Javier Auyero is Professor in Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and Director of the Urban Ethnography Lab. His research interest covers urban poverty, political ethnography and collective violence. He is the author of Poor People’s Politics: Peronist Survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita, Patients of the State, The Politics of Waiting in Argentina and other publications.

Text by: Xu Shuai
Edited by: Yuan Mengqi