Arely Cruz Santiago

Durham University

Arely's research relating to kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility  focusses on decanting the categories of forensic knowledge production in Mexico by analysing the development of citizen-led forensics in Mexico through the experiences of families of the missing and the disappeared. Through the independent collection of data sources and the development of strategies from personal experience, grassroots analysis and systematisation of forensic evidence have emerged as a legitimate challenge to the lack of state responses to the humanitarian crisis involving missing and disappeared men and women in Mexico. While looking for the missing and the disappeared is often a family affair, women –and more specifically, mothers-- have been at the forefront of this battle. Women have questioned the formal yet absent expertise of Mexican official forensic actors and in so doing have opened possibilities for the development of alternative modes of forensic knowledge. Her work documents the development of citizen-led forensics in Mexico as described by the mothers of disappeared and missing young women and men.


Caitlyn Yates

IBI Consultants and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law

Caitlyn 's research relating to kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on analyzing regional trends in extortionist migrant kidnapping in Mexico and targeted policy interventions to improve law and enforcement and policy responses to this crime of immobility.


Camilo Perez Bustillo

Hope Border Institute

Camilo's work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on analyzing recurrent patterns of human rights abuses towards migrants in the US/Mexico border region. In a contemporary border context that is characterized by issues of family separation, of detention and deterrence of asylum-seekers (including children and families), of the persecution of migrants crossing Mexico through abduction, extortion, kidnapping and disappearance, he questions the relationship between these harm-enducing phenomena and processes of transitional justice on both sides of the border.

Camilo Tamayo Gomez

University of Leeds

I am currently working on the project 'Mobile Solutions to the Mexican Kidnapping Epidemic: Beyond Elite Counter-Measures Towards Citizen-Led Innovation'. This research project focusses upon kidnapping and its effects in Mexico, and also in the US-Mexico borderlands. It examines the techniques that Mexican citizens are developing to counter this threat in a context of impunity and mass distrust of law enforcement. Kidnapping has emerged as a major source of societal insecurity in Mexico. However, despite the far-reaching trauma that it has delivered, it has received only limited academic attention to date. We know little about its patterns, or its effects. In this project we work to shed new light on this illicit industry. We explore its forms, its consequences, and various ‘mobile solutions’ that have emerged to counter kidnapping. These include strategies such as: internal/external migration; cross-border security services; escort security; and, everyday practices and technologies that Mexican citizens use to secure and track their movements. Our ambitions extend beyond examining these multiple mobilities, to also produce answers to the key project question: how do you counter kidnapping when you cannot access private solutions or rely on the state?
My research interests focuses on the relationship between violence, human rights and security from a socio-political perspective. It explores how social movements and victims of armed conflict and violent contexts are implementing communicative citizenship actions to claim human rights and security in local and regional public spheres; and how these actions are affecting the construction of political and cultural memory, dimensions of social recognition, and degrees of solidarity and power in divided societies. I have explored normative and positive models and integrated sociological theories to understand the impact of crime and violence on society, taking into account inequality, culture, exclusion, illegality, geopolitical considerations and poverty in order to find explanations regarding the impact of these topics in particular Latin American contexts. My research work emphases the role of citizens, social movements and the third sector to change contexts of insecurity and violence, and how local and national governments can create security strategies having the respect of human rights are a central aspect.

Carlos Spector

Spector Law Firm

Attorney Carlos Spector’s work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on examining generally how extortions, kidnappings, and human rights violations in Mexico by authorized crime displaces Mexican citizens resulting in their fleeing to the United States in search of political asylum. He researches how the U.S. asylum legal framework tends to reinforce the widespread misperception that such crimes do not occur and that the Mexican government is able and willing to control said organized crime. Additionally, he examines how the 90% denial rate of Mexican asylum claims is rooted in the history of U.S. asylum law, foreign policy, and fluid domestic considerations.

Cate Bird

ICRC – International Committee of the Red Cross

Cate’s work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on addressing the humanitarian needs of families of missing migrants. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recognizes missing persons as individuals whose whereabouts are unknown to their family, regardless of the reason for their disappearance. Migrants are particularly vulnerable for going missing at various stages along their journey, especially as they travel through areas of armed conflict or other situations of violence, often afraid to seek help from authorities when needed, and are exposed to treacherous terrain, abuse, exploitation, or forced disappearances. In cases of missing migrants, the ICRC recognizes that suffering can be significantly reduced by minimizing the risk of migrants going missing, facilitating the search for and identification of missing migrants, addressing the specific needs of families of the missing, and treating the dead and their families with dignity. Acknowledging the toll that ‘ambiguous loss’ can have on families, the ICRC works to advise authorities on how to better respond to the needs of families, as well as to provide direct assistance to families by tracing missing persons, helping families navigate the legal system and providing psychosocial support.

Christian Captier

Médecins Sans Frontières

As a worldwide medical humanitarian non-governmental organization, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) works in many insecure contexts in which populations face violence as part of their daily lives. Abductions, kidnappings and detentions are common features of violence, particularly amongst migrant populations, to which MSF bears witness and regularly confronts while delivering medical assistance. MSF’s own personnel are not immune to this violence, having been a victim to incidents of freedom deprivation across numerous contexts whilst carrying out their work. In his presentation, Christian shared how an NGO like MSF, given its specific modus operandi (impartiality, neutrality, acceptance, level of exposure), confronts such challenges that are invariably traumatic for staff, their families and people in the organization but also impacts MSF’s capacity to deliver medical assistance to populations in need. Drawing on 40 years of experience and the work of the internal Sharing Incident Memory and Mitigation (SIMM) project, he shared MSF’s reflections about their experiences facing such incidents considering the diversity of situations and the uniqueness of each event.

Conor O’Reilly

University of Leeds

My research agenda in the field of kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is currently shaped by the Newton Fund project 'Mobile Solutions to the Mexican Kidnapping Epidemic: Beyond Elite Counter-Measures, Towards Citizen-Led innovation'. Along with my project colleagues and our collaborators, we are working to find answers to one key question: how do you counter kidnapping when you cannot access private solutions or rely on the state? Our work seeks to assist and support the many Mexican citizens who are not part of the elite but whose lives remain dramatically impacted by this illicit phenomenon. In this context, we are working to develop a counter-kidnapping toolkit of resources that will assist activist-citizens to confront this threat. Additionally, I have a specific interest in how kidnapping impacts mobilities and intimacy. Through our fieldwork in the US-Mexico borderlands, it is evident that kidnapping both shapes -and reciprocally is reshaped- by border mobility. Whilst the everyday intimacies of life have been dramatically interrupted in border cities such as Juarez and El Paso, a diverse range of transborder mobile subjects born of kidnapping have also been triggered: from asylum seekers, to smuggled migrants, to elite refugees, to cross-border security services. In the borderland context therefore, kidnapping gives rise to many questions and diverse uneven mobilities. Exploring these is a core focus of my current research activities.

Cynthia Werner

Texas A&M University

Cynthia has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Central Asia since the mid-1990s. She has made key contributions to scholarly conversations about women’s lives in Central Asia. Two of her publications focused on the lives of rural women who trade goods in new, informal marketplaces. Her strongest contributions, however, have been to the study of bride abduction, one of the “hot” topics for this region. In a 2004 publication, she situated this practice within a historical context, arguing that the frequency of “non-consensual” bride abduction was relatively low during the Soviet years (when gender equality was a state priority) and then increased in the post-Soviet years (with the rise of nationalism, corruption, and economic disruption). She expanded on these ideas in a second publication (2009) that explained how discourses of shame and tradition have been mobilized in ways that help perpetuate non-consensual bride abduction, especially in Kyrgyzstan where the practice has been re-imagined as a national tradition. A third publication (2018) developed out of a roundtable discussion with other scholars who study bride kidnapping in regions that were once part of the Soviet Union. She has a fourth publication (now forthcoming) that teases out some of the similarities between “kidnap culture” in Central Asia and “rape culture” on U.S. campuses.

David Shirk

University of San Diego

David’s work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on understanding the effects of Mexico’s kidnapping epidemic in the San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan region. San Diego and Tijuana are the largest U.S. and Mexican cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, and together they are the epicenter of the “Cali-Baja” region, where Southern California and Baja California meet. His research offers a general introduction to the geographic, historical, economic, and demographic characteristics of this twin-city area of the U.S.-Mexico border region, particularly as they pertain to the issue of kidnapping. In his scholarship, David offers a analysis of the problem of kidnapping in Baja California, with special attention to Tijuana, which experienced a major spike in the number of reported kidnappings around 2008-09. He discusses the extent to which kidnapping in Tijuana has cross-border implications, such as relocation of Tijuana residents to reduce kidnapping risk, efforts by kidnapping victims to seek asylum in the United States, and binational cooperation between U.S.-Mexican law enforcement agencies to combat kidnapping.

Deborah Ruiz Verduzco

ICMP - International Commission on Missing Persons

Deborah’s work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed upon highlighting the complexities of the issue of missing migrants and to propose instruments that can help address them. The nature of irregular migration, where people travel without documents or with falsified documents and seek to avoid official scrutiny, means that the actual number of fatalities and disappearances in the context of migration is significantly higher than the numbers recorded to date. Large numbers of migrants are killed or fall into the hands of people smugglers and traffickers before they reach their destination country. As distinct but interconnected activities, human smuggling and human trafficking demand different legal responses. Since migrants typically pass through several countries and jurisdictions before they reach their final destination, legal considerations in one country may impinge on different issues in a neighboring country when an undocumented individual goes missing. Through a set of tools, the international Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) proposes to process data and information on missing migrants in a systematic and easily accessible manner, which will have a significant and rapid impact on the capacity to locate those reported missing in the context of migration. ICMP is mandated to secure cooperation among governments in accounting for missing persons as results of inter alia human rights abuses, organized crime, and irregular migration, to support the work of other organizations, and to encourage public involvement in its activities.

Emiliano Ignacio Díaz Carnero

El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

Emiliano’s work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on the relationship violence, territory and security. How to build positive peace conditions? How to design and implement security strategies since the human security paradigm? How to measure the different types of violence? How to measure the situation of human rights in each city, in each region? How to identify the conflicts that affect the people and their territories? How to transform the conflicts? These are some of the issues that guide the project of Geographies for Peace for the Institute of Geography for Peace A.C and The College of the Northern Border of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Issues that, not only, need to be analysed theoretically and historically by the social sciences; but also, need to be analysed from the perspective of the victims and from the local population that suffers, resists and survives conditions of extreme violence and governmental indifference. We need plural and democratic dialogues, which transcend the barriers of indifference, contempt, discrimination and stereotypes, to help build solid and lasting conditions for intercultural, intersectional and decolonial dialogue that does not reproduce violence.

Ernesto Schwartz Marin

University of Exeter

Half-jokingly, philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s (2003) ‘pneumatic democracy’ proposes to send inflating parliaments to spaces that have no democratic traditions. Sloterdijk’s art installation exposes naïve views that want to export democracy to solve social problems around the globe, but also stresses the spatial dispositions and logics that lie at the centre of our democratic imagination. The presentation that Ernesto has delivered at the workshop had takes ‘pneumatic democracies’ seriously, but instead of sending our agoras to civilise the fringes of the cosmos, he proposed to create mobile shrines of pneumatic, or rather hydraulic democracy, to deal with insecurity and kidnapping in Mexico. By bringing his own partial successes and failures in creating spaces for deliberation to inform the design, development and governance of citizen-led technologies, he opened up the logics and ethnographic insights that led him to design a data governance system inspired by the Uros in Lake Titicaca. The Uros live on floating islands arranged around kinship relationships and alliances, thus the islands grow together or drift away. The Uros’ aquatic territoriality allows for certain forms of sociality that we think better adapt to the complexities of sharing data in highly volatile scenarios where trust is in short supply. Crimes such as kidnapping rely on the violent uprooting of persons and things to cripple trust, intimacy and concerted action (O’Reilly and Tamayo Gomez in this conference). Thus, thinking with the Uros, we have designed a series of technologies such as an app, handbook, support network and an adaptable governance system built around spaces populated by various forms of decision making, such as the family, the work place or school grounds in which we continually exercise our rights to be heard or develop our negotiation skills. In order to move away from the dominant parliamentary paradigms which are difficult to maintain and take care of, and in the digital realm they tend to frame data governance either as Hamiltonian (central government-led) or Jeffersonian (lots of private owners and smaller powers), our digital floating islands instantiate digital forms of care, that aim to work within infrastructures of intimacy that keep our social life a float, while also helping us to combat kidnapping and insecurity in Mexico (and maybe even beyond). We argue our hydraulic democracy better adapts to the prosumers at the centre of social media and platforms economies.

Gabriella Sanchez

European University Institute

Gabriella’s work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on intersectional approaches in kidnapping scholarship. As with most forms of what is typically referred to as organized crime, criminological scholarship is on modus operandi has traditionally focused on male actors as perpetrators. When, and if present in academic analyses, women tend to be depicted as victims, or as perpetrators of specific forms of violence. This dichotomous stance, however, leaves gaps in the overall understanding of gender dynamics in crime, and on the impact of enforcement activities. Drawing from case law involving kidnapping cases prosecuted in the US state of Arizona, Gabriella’s research provides an intersectional analysis of kidnapping dynamics. Looking beyond gender alone, bringing the dynamics of variables like race and class into legal case analyses allows us to uncover the multiple variables shaping participation in crime, and the implications they have on the way law enforcement classifies and prosecutes kidnapping offenses.

Georgina Jiménez

Data Cívica

Georgina’s work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on kidnapping in Mexico’s subways. At the beginning of 2019, activists and women groups started sharing experiences of women who had suffered kidnapping attempts in the vicinity of Mexico's City subway. They claimed the problem was very serious and women were in serious danger. Georgina’s research has geo-located the kidnapping reports, comparing the role of women in kidnapping and victimization among different states in order to find out if the problem was as serious as the activists claimed. She concluded that there is not an epidemic of kidnapping women in Mexico City, but, in fact, reports of willful deprivation of liberty occur more often in the vicinity of Mexico's City's subway than other crimes do.

Gustavo Duncan

EAFIT University

Gustavo’s work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on historical approaches to analyse how crime and mafias gangs have been controlling territory and mobility of people in contemporary Medellin. He argues that in order to monopolize rents criminals have been exercising different methods of control of territory; coercing communities and replacing the role of the state. It focuses on analysing how criminal gangs (from Pablo Escobar days to actual times) have taken the rule of law in some parts of the city assuming functions of control of mobility, transit and free movement of local habitants. It establishes the notion of ‘coercive oligopolies’ to show how the state can allowed criminals to determine the movement of people in the city as a mechanism to improve governance and efficiency. It concludes demonstrating an inverse process of construction of local state where gangs and criminals can undermine the power of local authorities, and the mobility of citizens in public spaces, but with no intention of replacing the socio-political system.

Ilka Vega

Hope Border Institute

Ilka's work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on intersections of mobility and social justice. She also researches mobility as an enabling human right, migration as a climate change adaptation, and resilience building cultural strategy.

Jeremy Slack

The University of Texas at El Paso

Jeremy's work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on going beyond the ransom narrative; analysing the relationship between migrant and deportee kidnapping in Mexico. Migrant kidnappings have reached epic proportions throughout Mexico. However, scholars and policy makers are often stuck on a ransom narrative. Jeremy's research discusses some of the other reasons behind abduction that sometimes overlap with ransom and at other times are totally distinct. This includes forced labour, coercion to participate in illegal activities, torture to obtain information as well as kidnappings as levantón. The levantón has increased in popular usage and is generally thought of as a kidnapping without intent to return the person. These practices fit into the growing number of disappeared persons as well as the overlap between migration and the dead and disappeared who have been tied to Mexico’s drug related conflict.

Mauricio Builes

CNMH – Centro Nacional de Memoria Historica de Colombia

Mauricio's work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on the relationship between transmedia narratives, construction of historical memory and kidnapping in Colombia. His transmedia project, Recuerdos de Selva (‘Memories of the Jungle’), addresses individual memories and experiences of Colombian police and army officers that were kidnapped by the guerrillas in the midst of the Colombian armed conflict.



Roberto Forin

Mixed Migration Centre

Roberto's work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on criminal impunity, particularly in the prevalence of kidnapping and detention in mixed flows. It is increasingly evident that kidnapping and detention for ransom are deeply embedded in the mixed migration phenomenon as another rent-seeking form of exploitation - whether conducted by criminals or state officials. Data concerning these international crimes and rights violations is scarce due to under-research and its clandestine nature. However, using primary data from thousands of interviews with refugees, migrants and smugglers conducted by the Mixed Migration Centre along specific migratory routes this research uses case studies from those from the Horn of Africa – Eritrean, Somalis and Ethiopians to expose relevant and disturbing characteristics. Findings reported by migrants and refugees are showing that kidnapping and detention both often occur in situations of coercion, deception, extortion and violence, blurring the lines between official detention and kidnapping, as well as between smuggling and trafficking. The findings are also showing, inter alia, that mode of transportation, location of routes and even the profile of those victimised has relevance to the outcomes and experiences of refugees and migrations. Specific locations can be identified as particularly dangerous to refugees and migrants and that smugglers are instrumental in the practices along with certain state officials.

Temitope Oriola

University of Alberta

Temitope's work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on kidnapping and oil politics, particularly for the case of Nigeria. Can kidnapping be used as a form of protest and maintain a veneer of legitimacy among the public despite being flagrantly illegal? How is criminality (i.e. kidnapping) delimited in such a context? Temitope's research investigates kidnapping on one hand as a form of protest and on the other hand as sheer criminal expropriation in Nigeria’s oil insurgency. It draws on interviews and focus group discussions with 56 insurgents (42 males and 14 females) involved in kidnapping oil workers in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. The motivations and objectives of the insurgents are interrogated. Findings reveal the intricate entanglement of the activities of the insurgents — kidnapping (particularly foreign oil workers), vandalism and illegal oil bunkering — in the ethnically tinged political process in Nigeria. The implications of the research for understanding kidnapping in other contexts is articulated.

Zulia Yanzadig Orozco Reynoso

Justice in Mexico

Zulia's work on kidnapping and crimes of (im)mobility is focussed on analyzing the correlation between kidnapping and real estate in Mexico. Previously, she studied the relationship between criminal economy and private property, where in general terms and among many others, the research produced a digital map of the geography of criminal power in Tijuana, Mexico. Now, she would like to take a step further and analyses the correlation between property and kidnapping in Mexico. For example, she would like to understand if there is a general real estate typology in kidnapping crimes, as well as market values or patterns in both the real estate or the boroughs where the situation occurred.