Kidnapping is a pervasive presence across a range of insecure global settings: fragile states where crime, violence and impunity reign; diverse conflict-zones; unstable regions where global inequalities play out; and, increasingly, the precarious paths of migrant flows. Whilst this illicit phenomenon is often presented in sensationalist terms by the media, as a research topic kidnapping remains under-examined and under-theorised. It is also an illicit practice that, despite its prevalence, has been somewhat neglected by global crime policy intervention. Certainly, elite-kidnappings for ransom and abductions by militant groups are recognised as important concerns. However, the (often-uncritical) concentration upon these more orthodox manifestations of kidnapping, and state-led responses to it, masks other variants of this illicit practice, as well as innovations in counter-kidnapping from beyond the state.
In this context, increased academic attention and exchange is required to address this research deficit. There is a pressing need to better understand the contextual factors, the local-global interplay and the licit-illicit intersections that shape kidnapping dynamics, as well as counter-kidnapping responses, across the world. Further, kidnapping must be appreciated as sitting within a fluid spectrum of criminality: one where it overlaps with other illicit activities and markets; one where the status of both victims and perpetrators is fluid and temporally evolving; and, one where the immobilizing impulse of kidnapping also triggers multiple mobilities and mobilizations.
For these reasons, we are hosting this event to bring more co-ordinated research attention to kidnapping, as well as to promote broader academic exchange that encompasses its connections with wider, often intersecting, crimes of (im)mobility.
This workshop forms part of the research programme for the Newton Fund project ‘Mobile Solutions to the Mexican Kidnapping Epidemic: Beyond Elite Counter-Measures, Towards Citizen-Led Innovation.’ We are also grateful for the additional support received from the School of Law, University of Leeds and the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Through this workshop, we aim to spotlight the complexities of kidnapping across diverse global regions and to bring new impetus to what is a remarkably neglected research field. Gathering academics and activists concerned with kidnapping, we will create a forum through which to: share research findings; exchange and develop new conceptual frameworks; spotlight innovative counter-kidnapping mechanisms; promote kidnap interventions from below; and ultimately, work to better assist those most affected by this mass insecurity.
University of Leeds
Dr Conor O’Reilly is Associate Professor in Transnational Crime and Security at the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies in the School of Law, University of Leeds.
Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin is Lecturer in Sociology at Exeter University, his research is characterised by the ethnographic engagement with large bioscientific endeavours in LatinAmerica.
European University Institute
Dr Gabriella Sanchez is the head of smuggling research at the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute.Her work documents the experiences of migrant smuggling facilitators relying on community-based participatory methods.
University of Leeds
Dr Camilo Tamayo Gomez is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies (CCJS) in the School of Law, University of Leeds (UK). He is a member of the British Sociological Association (BSA) and the International Sociological Association (ISA).
The University of Texas at El Paso
Chief (retired) Dr. Victor Manjarrez, Jr. served for more than 20 years in the United States Border Patrol and filled key operational roles both in the field and at Headquarters over the course of his extensive homeland security career.