About this Project

The relationship between governments and the citizens they seek to rule is central to understanding politics and society in the contemporary world.  This collaborative research project is a departure from macro-historical studies of state power, relying instead on ethnography, archival research, interviews, historical narratives, and textual analysis to develop a local understanding of “the state” that reveals how authorities (from prime ministers to police officers) evaluate political threats, create social structures, and construct categories of legality and criminality. By studying interactions between states and criminal organizations in Latin America, policing and social control in urban America, and violence and state building in post-colonial South Asia, the project bridges regions, methodologies, and disciplines. Ultimately, through a series of collaborative workshops and a culminating conference, the project aims to create a new ‘Chicago School’ on the state, violence, and social control.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Lessing; About the Photo: Alemão was considered the most fortified redoubt of the Comando Vermelho, Rio's largest and oldest armed criminal syndicate (facção criminosa). A major state invasion of Alemão in 2007 led to a bloody siege but failed to expel the traffickers. In 2008 the government changed to a violence-reduction approach known as Pacification, and in November 2010 managed to 'pacify' Alemão with a minimum of violence. Usually pacified favelas receive community-policing units known as UPPs, but Alemão was too large and there weren't enough UPPs ready, so the army occupied it for over a year. In this photo, taken in December 2011, Favela residents enjoy a cultural event in army-occupied Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro after state troops captured the community from drug traffickers.


UChicago Charts Future of Ethnographic Research

April 10, 2017

Faculty Fellows Forrest Stuart (The State, Violence, and Social Control in the Contemporary World), Kimberly Hoang (The Economy and its Boundaries), and Kristen Schilt (Gaming Orientation) represent a new generation of sociologists advancing the University’s multidisciplinary tradition. 

Will Brazil’s Prison Riots Spur Needed Reforms?

February 9, 2017

The only way Brazil can prevent a “bloody, national-scale gang war,” argues Benjamin Lessing, a principal investigator on the State, Violence, and Social Control research project, is to “craft a better prison strategy.” Curbing prison violence is a crucial first step, he tells the Christian Science Monitor.

Trump Pledge to “Send in the Feds” Rankles Chicago Cops, Criminals and Academics

January 25, 2017

Forrest Stuart, Assistant Professor of Sociology and a Principal Investigator on the Neubauer Collegium research project The State, Violence, and Social Control in the Contemporary World, reflects on the president's interest in federal law enforcement as a way to help address the homicide epidemic in Chicago. "If the idea is send in the feds with guns and batons, he's likely to make the problem worse," Stuart tells Newsweek.


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