Where have the criminals gone?

Transformations of war and categorizations of violence in Colombia
By 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.


  • war
  • war economy
  • crime
  • criminalization
  • Colombia
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