Search Results for: Midwest

Organized crime and “political” violence: A report from MPSA 2015 and a focus on Italian mafias

Midwest Political Science Annual Conference last week in Chicago. Good place to keep updated – and try to contribute on – recent advancements in the discipline. Few strands of literature have been enjoying a blossoming in the past years as conflict studies did. Evolving political realities – lot of attention was devoted to “Afghanistan and Iraq-like wars” – and progresses in research design and methods – with a strong push coming from quantitative studies blended in making the field so rich. Within this growing body of studies, a relevant place has been occupied by research looking at forms of violence and agents, such as organized crime, which have often escaped classical analyses of “political” violence.  Or at least those following Schmitt’s classical distinction between political and criminal aims contained in the famous Theory of the Partisan.

Thus, the panel on “Political Violence and Crime” at MPSA constituted an interesting opportunity to discuss current research on the theme (I think the late Charles Tilly, who was always keen in relating organized crime and political phenomena, would have been happy about it). Five very interesting pieces of work were presented. Harvard’s Bradley Holland presented a paper on ethnic violence linked to drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Southern California. Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley (Notre Dame) showed the link between the structures of political arenas and DTOs’ killings of politicians in Mexico. University of Wisconsin’s Nicholas Barnes presented his extensive fieldwork on gang governance in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, and Wolfgang Muno (University of Mainz) laid out an interpretative framework to analyse “bad informal institutions”.

And then (highly likely that it is not the best piece, but for sure the dearest to Venus), Francesco (Moro) and Salvatore Sberna had a piece on violence in non-traditional areas – that is in the regions were mafia consortia did not have their roots – in Italy. The problem is a central one, given that organized crime and mafias are increasingly mobile and that violence perpetrated by these groups has been making the news on both sides of the Atlantic. Across the Ocean, there has been a lot of discussion over the effect of Mexican drug cartels’ presence in large US cities. Italian mafias as well sparked debate, both in Italy – where presence in the Northern regions of the country has been expanding for decades – and abroad – where violence erupted in “surprising” locations (such as Duisburg in Germany, where a massacre took place in 2007).

The paper addressed, both theoretically and empirically, two major puzzles. First, notwithstanding expansion in Northern regions, the number of mafia homicides in these areas is overall much lower than in Southern regions where mafias have their strongholds. Second, although limited, violence (measured by mafia homicides) in Northern regions present notable diversities: some provinces in some years are clearly more violent than others. How, then, can this diversity be explained?

Three main findings emerge:

  • Violence in non-traditional areas is more limited as groups do not find the same environmental conditions of territories of origin. First, the balance of forces versus law enforcement is penalizing. Second, business in new markets is less confined to the provision of “private protection” and more based on the attempt to penetrate legal markets, where resort to violence is less needed. Becoming legitimate, by way, has been the attempt of most criminals in pop-culture, from Michael Corleone to Lemond Bishop (a reference for the Chicagoans). This has always Third, and as a consequence, mafia groups in new areas often choose to “outsource” the use of violent means to other agents (often, coming from parent groups in areas of origin).
  • When violence happens in new territories, it is often the result of “transfers” (spillovers) from mafia violence in the old ones. That is, if a conflict erupts in a Sicilian province, it will likely affect violence in a Northern province where the Sicilian groups involved in the conflict previously migrated.
  • Violence transfers are affected by local conditions as well. Spillovers, in other words, happen in the provinces where the mafia groups’ presence has been more consolidated (over time) and where they actually have more capabilities/resources (which is signalled by the absence of other mafia consortia in the same area).

Work is under way in these directions. Stay tuned for details!

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 51

A week between technology and culture – as in a still relevant book by Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

While ISIS keeps claiming that the re-establishment of a Caliphate that reaches out to once Arab Europe is one of its goals, there has been a debate in Spain over Google Maps renaming the Mosque in Cordoba.

In the meanwhile, the Pentagon is thinking about (or is dreaming about) a machine that can make use of big data to predict events. It kind of reminds of Spielberg’s Minority Report.

Tel Aviv is hosting the Annual CyberTech Fair. The head of the famous Iron Dome program, which shields Israeli citizens from rockets, stated that he is working towards a “similar” program defending from cyber-threats (the CyberDome?)

Vice News embedded a video journalist in the Nigerian Army fighting Boko Haram. Here you can find the first of a three-part report that sheds light on of the world’s hottest spots.

NBA Playoffs start on April 18th. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix responds to some key questions over the most exciting part of the season. Take some time off and enjoy the games!

Ps: This week Venus will be at the Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association. A lot of interesting stuff, check here for further info.

 

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2015: Selected conferences on Political Science and International Relations

We provide some suggestions for the coming year. Here below the most interesting and promising conferences on political science and international relations scheduled in 2015. Also Venus in Arms will be “on tour” in 2105.

  • The ISA’s 56th Annual Convention. The conference will be held in New Orleans (February 18th-21st 2015). Venus in Arms will be at the conference presenting papers on cyber-warfare, public opinion and (counter)narratives, Italian operations in Libya, Haiti and Somalia.
  • The 73rd annual MPSA (Midwest Political Science Association) conference (April 16-19, 2015) . The event will be held at the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago.ViA will present the paper “Learning from others? Emulation and adjustment in Italian military transformation”.
  • The BISA (British International Studies Association) 40th Anniversary Conference 2015. The detailed programme will be announced in January. The event (June 16-19 June, 2015) will be held in London. ViA has submitted a paper on coalition foreign policy and junior parties.
  • The 111th APSA (American Political Science Association) Annual Meeting (San Francisco, September 3-6, 2015). This year’s theme is: “Diversities Reconsidered: Politics, and Political Science, in the 21st Century.”
  • The next year the ECPR’s General Conference is organized at the Université de Montréal (26 – 29 August 2015). The deadline for Panel and Paper submissions is 16 February 2015 (here the submission).

 

See you around the world…

 

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Learning from others? Emulation and adjustment in Italian military transformation

Venus in Arms will be at the 73rd annual MPSA (Midwest Political Science Association) conference.

The event will be held April 16-19, 2015 at the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago.

As stated by the website: “Conference presentations are organized by topic in more than 80 sections based on different subfields or areas of study. Many of these are interdisciplinary and draw scholars from different fields, providing a variety of perspectives“.

Here you’ll find the link to the sections.

ViA will present the paper “Learning from others? Emulation and adjustment in Italian military transformation” at the panel 17-8: Role of Military Learning and Technology in International Security

The paper focuses on recent transformations in Italian armed forces to discuss mechanisms of learning and adaptation of NATO countries experiencing intense deployment in the last decades.

 

See you in Chicago

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