Vigilar y Limpiar”: Identification and Self-Help Justice-Making in Michoacán, Mexico

Outlaw Vigilantes
By Romain Le Cour Grandmaison

Existing within a relatively short time frame (2013-2015), the Michoacán Autodefensas (self-defense groups) are a particularly fruitful case study for analyzing vigilantism. What we find here is an armed movement that was devoted to (re)creating a local order through the practices of investigation, vigilante justice, and classification of the social world. Beyond what it reveals about vigilantism as a “judicial” procedure, and as a desire to return to intimacy (in this case, that of familial and village interknowledge), the example of the self-defense groups suggests that vigilantes do not necessarily have as their mission the eradication of crime. Rather, they may settle for managing it, in particular by making it more legible locally. As such, they are involved in intense struggles for identification and classification. Their reordering attempts, however, often bring new disorderly possibilities and opacities, as shown by the aporia of the security model implemented by the self-defense groups.

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