Desmond Arias

Position: Professor
Campus Affiliation: Baruch College
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph.D. University of Wisconsin- Madison
Research Interests:Comparative Politics, Political Theory, and International Relations
Enrique Desmond Arias’ research focuses on security and politics in Latin America and the Caribbean. He is the author of Criminal Enterprises and Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean (Cambridge University Press) Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, and Public Security (University of North Carolina Press) and is co-editor of Violent Democracies in Latin America published (Duke University Press). His writing has appeared in Comparative Politics, Perspectives on Politics, the Latin American Research Review, Current Sociology, the Journal of Latin American Studies, Policing and Society, Qualitative Sociology, Latin American Politics and Society, America’s Quarterly, Studies in Comparative International Development, Americas Quarterly, Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica and the Revista de Estudios Socio-Juridicos. The American Council of Learned Societies, the Open Society Foundation, the Tinker Foundation, the Fulbright Scholars program, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation have provided funding for his research. In addition to his scholarship, he has served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UNHabitat). As part of his work with these last two organizations, Professor Arias was the principal author of the United Nations Introductory Handbook on Policing Urban Space.
  Criminal Enterprises and Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean  (Cambridge, University Press, 2018)
This book examines security in three cities that suffer from chronic violence: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Medellin, Colombia; and Kingston, Jamaica. In each, democratic states contend with subnational armed groups that dominate territory and play important roles in politics even as they contribute to fear and insecurity. Through a nested three-city, six-neighborhood analysis of the role of criminal groups in governance, this research provides a deep understanding of the impact of crime on political experience. Neighborhoods controlled by different types of armed actors, operating in the same institutional context, build alliances with state officials and participate in political life through the structures created by these armed actors. The data demonstrates the effects criminal dominance can have on security, civil society, elections, and policymaking. Far from reflecting a breakdown of order, varying types of criminal groups generate different local lived political experiences.
 Violent Democracies in Latin America (The Cultures and Practice of Violence, Cambridge University Press, 2010)
Despite recent political movements to establish democratic rule in Latin American countries, much of the region still suffers from pervasive violence. From vigilantism, to human rights violations, to police corruption, violence persists. It is perpetrated by state-sanctioned armies, guerillas, gangs, drug traffickers, and local community groups seeking self-protection. The everyday presence of violence contrasts starkly with governmental efforts to extend civil, political, and legal rights to all citizens, and it is invoked as evidence of the failure of Latin American countries to achieve true democracy. The contributors to this collection take the more nuanced view that violence is not a social aberration or the result of institutional failure; instead, it is intimately linked to the institutions and policies of economic liberalization and democratization.
The contributors—anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists, and historians—explore how individuals and institutions in Latin American democracies, from the rural regions of Colombia and the Dominican Republic to the urban centers of Brazil and Mexico, use violence to impose and contest notions of order, rights, citizenship, and justice. They describe the lived realities of citizens and reveal the historical foundations of the violence that Latin America suffers today. One contributor examines the tightly woven relationship between violent individuals and state officials in Colombia, while another contextualizes violence in Rio de Janeiro within the transnational political economy of drug trafficking. By advancing the discussion of democratic Latin American regimes beyond the usual binary of success and failure, this collection suggests more sophisticated ways of understanding the challenges posed by violence, and of developing new frameworks for guaranteeing human rights in Latin America.
Contributors: Enrique Desmond Arias, Javier Auyero, Lilian Bobea, Diane E. Davis, Robert Gay, Daniel M. Goldstein, Mary Roldán, Todd Landman, Ruth Stanley, María Clemencia Ramírez
Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, and Public Security (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
 Taking an ethnographic approach to understanding urban violence, Enrique Desmond Arias examines the ongoing problems of crime and police corruption that have led to widespread misery and human rights violations in many of Latin America’s new democracies. Employing participant observation and interview research in three favelas (shantytowns) in Rio de Janeiro over a nine-year period, Arias closely considers the social interactions and criminal networks that are at the heart of the challenges to democratic governance in urban Brazil.
Much of the violence is the result of highly organized, politically connected drug dealers feeding off of the global cocaine market. Rising crime prompts repressive police tactics, and corruption runs deep in state structures. The rich move to walled communities, and the poor are caught between the criminals and often corrupt officials. Arias argues that public policy change is not enough to stop the vicious cycle of crime and corruption. The challenge, he suggests, is to build new social networks committed to controlling violence locally. Arias also offers comparative insights that apply this analysis to other cities in Brazil and throughout Latin America.
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