Graduate Student Scholarship 2012/13 – 'Territories of Life and Death on a Colombian Frontier'

Here the winner of the 2012/13 Graduate Student Scholarship, Teo Ballvé (Department of Geography, University of California Berkeley), discusses his doctoral research ‘Territories of Life and Death on a Colombian Frontier’. The Scholarship has been offered since 2000 and provides funds for doctoral students to attend an international conference and cover additional research expenses.

Teo attended the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) meeting in San Francisco, 23-26 May 2012, chairing a session entitled ‘Contando lo narco: Research, methods, and narratives of narco-fueled violence‘ bringing together an international cast of scholars from literary criticism, geography, anthropology, cultural studies, and journalism to explore the violent explosion of Latin America’s drug wars in recent years. He will also be making trips to Washington, DC (where he plans to interview officials from the DEA and the Office of Foreign Assets Control) and New York (to conduct interviews with two key extradited paramilitary commanders, who are in jail facing drug-related charges).

There will be an open access essay summarising ‘Territories of Life and Death on a Colombian Frontier’ in the first issue of Antipode next year (available now online).

Sorry, the video: is not available.


  1. Antipode Editorial Office Post author

    Be sure to check out Teo’s paper in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (requires subscription):
    Everyday state formation: Territory, decentralization, and the narco landgrab in Colombia
    Abstract: Since the 1980s rural Colombia has been torn asunder by the deadly conflation of political violence and the cocaine boom, fueling the displacement of four million campesinos. The northwest frontier region surrounding the Gulf of Urabá has been an unruly epicenter for this mass of dispossessed humanity, mainly displaced by paramilitaries. As an outgrowth of a complex alliance between narcos (drug traffickers) and agrarian elites, paramilitary groups simultaneously act as drug-trafficking private militias and counterinsurgent battalions, while using land appropriation and agribusiness as favored conduits for money laundering and illicit profit. Drawing on investigative ethnographic fieldwork into these dynamics in Urabá, this paper shows how state formation in Urabá is produced through the convergence of narco-paramilitary strategies, counterinsurgency, and government reforms aimed at territorial restructuring through decentralization. Relying on the conceptual cues offered by Lefebvre and Gramsci on state, space, and hegemony, I argue that Urabá’s narco-driven economies of violence are not somehow anathema to projects of modern liberal statehood—usually associated with tropes of ‘institution building’ and ‘good governance’—but deeply tied to initiatives aimed at making spaces governable, expanding global trade, and attracting capital.
    Keywords: Colombia, territory, decentralization, paramilitaries, violence, state, Lefebvre
    Thanks to Stuart Elden for the link.