Genocidal Violence Amid Mexico’s War on Drugs: A Critical Lens on Police and Criminal Brutality

Kellogg Institute Visiting Fellow César Estrada

A Kellogg Work-in-Progress Seminar with Visiting Fellow César Estrada.

For more than a decade now, Mexico has been going through one of the most violent episodes of its modern history. The latest expansion of the “war on drugs” facilitated the emergence of widespread murder and systematic atrocities committed by both armed criminal actors and state security forces. The dimensions of violence in Mexico—e.g. more than 350,000 homicides committed from 2007 to 2020, over 90,000 people disappeared, and thousands of mass graves—go beyond what we commonly understand as criminality and rather resemble what other societies have experienced during genocide. Much of this violence has been studied through a criminal and economic conflict lens which, despite providing many useful insights, falls short in responding to how the violence acquires extreme and systematic dimensions. In other words, most of the scholarship fails to center on the dehumanization process and lethal targeting of people due to their belonging—factual or discursively constructed—to larger social groups. In this sense, this article examines the crisis of violence amid war on drugs policies and criminal conflicts in Mexico through a critical genocidal violence framework. This framework helps to shed light on the logics of extermination of human groups deemed as killable. Perpetrators of genocidal violence employ dehumanizing narratives that define victims as threats, as undesirable populations worthy of elimination. This study hopes to contribute to novel understandings of violence in Mexico in ways that help to unveil the human destruction associated with the “war on drugs,” while at the same time warn about the risks of reproducing in the public space certain narratives that render people as undesirable. 

Work-in-Progress Seminars are designed to generate in-depth discussion of new scholarly work. For the pre-circulated paper and to attend, register here. Room location information will be shared with preparation materials following your registration.

Speakers / Related People
César Estrada

This profile was current as of 2021, when he was part of the on-campus Kellogg community. César Estrada is a lecturer at the Department of Sociopolitical and Legal Studies at the Western Institute of Higher Education (ITESO), the Jesuit University of Guadalajara, where he teaches courses on criminal violence in Mexico...
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