Social Resistance to Criminal Protection Rackets: An Ethnographic Window into State-Building


ACLS Fellowship Program


Political Science


“Social Resistance to Criminal Protection Rackets” challenges the conventional view of victims of crime as helpless and resigned to their fates. The project advances a comparative analysis of variation in how business firms resist one of the most widespread forms of criminal victimization in the developing world: criminal protection rackets. These rackets are territorially defined relations between social actors that pay tribute to dominant actors in exchange for protection from both external threats and the dominant actors themselves. Drawing on extended fieldwork in Colombia, El Salvador, and Mexico, and using ethnographic methods, this project shows that the different economic and political resources available to social actors shape the types of resistance they pursue, from violent rebellion to quiet negotiation. The project offers conceptual, theoretical, and empirical insights into the broader question of how social actors contest the extraction of resources and their own political and social subjugation.