Transformations of war and categorizations of violence in ColombiaBy Jacobo Grajales
The relationship between armed groups and criminal markets is often described in essentialist terms, which convey the image of a “contamination” of armed political struggles by greed. In reality, war and crime maintain complex relationships; a group’s involvement in criminal markets can reinforce its social grounding and lead it to seek an influence on political arenas, but it can also provide others with a basis for discrediting it. This contribution argues that a fruitful method consists in identifying the social configurations in which criminal accumulation becomes a problem and analyzing in parallel the way in which armed groups relate to these categories. I develop this argument through the case of Colombia, dealing in parallel with two groups that, on appearances, seem completely opposed: the Farc guerrillas and paramilitary militias.