Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Swarthmore College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
"Criminal Enterprise": Forensics and the Re-Production of Corporate Power as Crime in Colombia

Over the last two decades Colombia has seen the multiplication of calls for the criminal punishment of corporations. While legal and political claims against business companies have been the target of organized labor since the early twentieth century, today these efforts to criminalize corporations are taking place at a particular historical conjuncture: After more than 50 years of internal armed conflict, in 2016 Colombia reached a historical peace agreement with the FARC-EP, the largest leftist guerrilla group active in the American continent. As Colombian citizens know full-well, the long war involved more than two opponents; from the state's military to state-backed paramilitary forces, from oil companies to drug cartels, from the U.S. government to Irish armed groups providing weapons to both sides; the list of perpetrators and beneficiaries goes on. And yet, Colombian citizenry and the state's judiciary are increasingly pointing at corporations; vocally demanding that these be held legally accountable for Colombia's violent past. Why is it that after over 50 years of internal warfare, Colombian debates about justice are increasingly centered on holding corporations accountable for the country's violent history? And how has Colombia's criminal justice system responded to the call for corporate accountability? The proposed study investigates how diverse Colombian social actors produce "The Corporation" as an object of of criminal punishment. It does so by ethnographically attending to two parallel phenomena. First, the proliferation within Colombia's criminal investigation apparatus of legal practices aimed at establishing the criminal responsibility of corporations. And second, the mobilization by the state and civil society of corporate-related concepts (such as "criminal enterprise") to describe violence as "structural" or "systemic." The project explores how these phenomena reimagine justice and accountability in the aftermath of armed conflict.