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Countermapping state crime: A cultural criminological exploration of arbitrary conscription in Bogotá

Matallana-Villarreal, Jairo Alberto (2017) Countermapping state crime: A cultural criminological exploration of arbitrary conscription in Bogotá. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, Faculty of Law, ELTE University (Hungary). (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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This thesis examines recruitment operations carried out by Colombian military forces, in violation of legal standards and constitutional rights. The most common practice used to be batidas militares, or arbitrary detentions with the purpose of conscription. Every year hundreds if not thousands of youths were caught off-guard in street round-ups; transported - often in trucks- to military units; and hastily assigned to battalions across the country to complete their military service. Until recent times these recruitment practices were systematically implemented despite the fact that UN bodies, domestic courts, and non-state actors had denounced their harmfulness and illegality.

Cultural criminology serves as a general framework to conduct the analysis of arbitrary conscription in Colombia, understanding crime and crime control as cultural constructions intersected by power relations. This framework guides the main questions of this project, i.e. the historical and cultural factors that enable arbitrary conscription, how this practice shaped youths' experience in public space, the underpinning official discourse, and the strategies society adopts to cope with it, from normalisation to resistance. Fieldwork to support the analysis was jointly conducted under a participatory action research approach with conscientious objection and anti-militarist collectives in Bogotá. Using a mixed- methods design, this thesis combines geovisualisation and participatory spatial data analysis with participant observation and in-depth interviews. This choice of methods enables a broad quantitative description with an in-depth qualitative explanation of this concealed practice.

This thesis reveals that arbitrary conscription is a long-standing practice rooted in colonial institutions and the militaristic construction of nationhood in Colombia. Such historical examination shows that state violence perpetrated by military forces has endured and coexists today with a protective democratic juridical framework. Arbitrary conscription is conceptualised simultaneously as a state crime and a policing technique. On the one hand, this thesis proves that arbitrary conscription is a state crime by all relevant criteria - it is a (i) systematic (ii) violation of human rights (iii) responding to state goals, with (iv) clear victimisation patterns and (v) enabled by a complicity network of state agencies. On the other hand, arbitrary conscription also functions as an informal policing technique that serves purposes of social control, disciplining and indoctrination of working-class youth. The polyvalent nature of arbitrary conscription illustrates the way certain security practices in disjunctive democracies trespass the boundaries between control and crime.

Arbitrary conscription is a dynamic phenomenon constantly reconfigured by competing narratives and forces of normalisation, resistance and denial. This study deepens the understanding of state violence normalisation and its linkages with militarist values; develops a definition of resistance as a project of autonomy; and illustrates reactions of state agents to social controls that include criminal refinement, discursive denial and moral neutralisation techniques. The analysis suggests that whereas the practice of military round- ups may be discontinued in the near future, underlying state abuse and violence for arbitrary conscription may persist in subtler and more sophisticated forms.

A major contribution of this thesis is the proposition of countermapping crime as a pragmatic strategy to unveil crimes of the powerful and make visible widespread harms. Going beyond the usual critique of crime maps as instruments of control with hidden political agendas, this thesis suggests that critical criminology can re-engage with geography to conduct refined and culturally informed spatial analysis. Key features of countermapping crime include (i) the conceptual expansion of crime to include social harms, (ii) the reliance on qualitative and participatory GIS to conduct data collection and analysis, and (iii) the use of socio-cultural theoretical frameworks that complement opportunity theories. This strategy is much more than a desk-based cartographic exercise. It is anchored in a transformative research paradigm entailing the participatory creation of spatial narratives that contest official discourses, the execution of spatial practices of place claiming, and the critical assessment and interpretation of visual readings of maps. Countermapping crime opens possibilities for criminology dealing with space and place by using participatory action- oriented methodologies.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Hayward, Keith
Thesis advisor: Csánadi, Gábor
Thesis advisor: Csizmady, Adrienne
Uncontrolled keywords: State crime military conscription recruitment arbitrary detention Bogotá Colombia cultural criminology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2017 13:57 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 19:39 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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