Maras as Producers of Translocal Spaces of Violence: Theoretical Model and Structure of Argument
Heidrun Zinecker (SFB 1199 & Leipzig U)
|Publication Date||April 2018|
|Publisher||Leipziger Universitätsverlag (Germany)|
SFB 1199 Working Paper 1
This working paper presents the basic concept of a research project that is part of the Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 1199. Section and that focuses on the spatial format produced by Maras.
Maras are a form of particularly violent youth gangs, primarily associated with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala as well as the United States. While Maras do not encompass drug cartels, in the form of petty drug business (narcomenudeo) they do cooperate with cartels and mafias. They maintain a subordinated role in this cooperation and generally play a minor role in the drug business (see Wolf 2011: 68; Ward 2013: 170).
What we investigate is the question if areas of expansion beyond the established areas of Maras can be detected in the Americas (Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Argentina) and in Europe (Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom). It will further focus on finding out if, and (if so) why, the respective adjacent states (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, Panama, Colombia, and Peru as well as Portugal, France, and Germany respectively) appear to be unaffected by Mara presence. The project examines how, due to which interests, in which external and internal dimensions, and within which boundaries and borders actors of criminal violence — in this case Maras — produce space. The project hypothesizes that the Mara spaces are a form of translocal spaces of violence—a spatial format that requires further specification.
Due to the limited literature on the spatial localization of Maras, this project cannot utilize existing theory-based literature. For this reason, the research has to depend on general models of spatial philosophy and sociology to develop a spatial conceptualization of the Maras. On the one hand, this research undertaking wants to comprehend the process of creating spaces, that is to say the space production by the Maras. Just as social agency does in general, so does the agency of Maras in particular entail a dimension of spatialization. On the other hand, this investigation of the Maras’ spatialization agency aims at identifying their privileged spatial format. To this end, several perspectives on spatiality and spaces will be applied and the resulting different—internal and external—spatial dimensions will be placed into a relational matrix.
The theoretical contributions of this research are, first, the application of the process tracing method in order to close an existing gap in the literature between space-producing agency and space produced as a result of this process. Second, it shall compare the collected empirical evidence on space production by Maras with the theoretical literature on spaces of violence. By connecting both the processes of de- and reterritorialization as well as flow and space, the project will advance these theoretical contributions. It will further deviate from a certain literature on spaces of violence and on globalization which focuses primarily on deterritorialization and dissolution of borders in general and of violent spaces in certain situations in particular.
The project assumes that by migrating between different locations the members of the Maras, the Mareros, create a space that stretches transnationally. The ensuing Mara space is at the same time translocal in nature. As a diaspora community, the Maras move with this space as well as within this space. This diaspora community promises Maras shelter as well as a home and a sense of belonging. It is this migration and diaspora that eventually “marks” the borders of the Mara space of violence.
The principal investigator and author of this working paper is a political scientist specialized in International Relations (IR). In this working paper, the author seeks to combine the insights of her own discipline with those from philosophy, sociology, political economy, cultural studies, and geography in order to locate the topic within the framework of the area studies.
Prof. Dr. Heidrun Zinecker (SFB 1199 & Institute of Political Science, Leipzig University, Germany)
Heidrun Zinecker is an emeritus professor at the Institute of Political Science (Leipzig U). Having trained as a philosopher at the University of Leningrad (Russia), she holds a PhD and habilitation from Leipzig University. Heidrun Zinecker has conducted field research in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico. She has also been a visiting fellow at many foreign universities: Universidad Nacional Bogotá and Universidad de La Habana; St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford; Universidad Complutense Madrid; Teresa Lozano Long Institute at the University of Texas at Austin; University of California, Santa Barbara; and Uniwersytet Jagiellonski Krakow.