State-Evading Solutions to Violence: Indigenous Political Autonomy and Organized Crime in Mexico

Thursday, April 11, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to the Philippines Conference Room in Encina Hall may attend in person.

Beatriz Magaloni seminar 2024

The monopoly of violence in the hands of the state is conceived as the principal vehicle to generate order. A problem with this vision is that parts of the state and its law enforcement apparatus might become extensions of criminality rather than solutions. We focus on indigenous rural Mexico, where the degree of infiltration of cartels puts them on par with very successful insurgencies. Our paper demonstrates that territorial political autonomy, which enables some indigenous communities to select their leaders through customary practices rather than the Western system of multi-party elections and to have a justice system and police independent from the state, is a strong institutional solution to protect civilians from cartels. Using various quasi-experimental methods, including difference-in-differences, propensity score matching, and geographic discontinuity, our results suggest that the effects of indigenous political autonomy on significantly reducing cartel take-over and violence are plausibly causal. Our results are robust when we contrast politically autonomous indigenous municipalities with non-autonomous indigenous municipalities that are equally endowed with ancestral governance practices and high levels of social capital.


Beatriz Magaloni is the Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations, a Professor in the Department of Political Science, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and affiliated faculty at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, the Center for Global Ethnography, and the Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development. 

Her first book, Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and its Demise in Mexico (Cambridge University Press, 2006), won the Best Book Award from the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association and the 2007 Leon Epstein Award for the Best Book published in the previous two years in the area of political parties and organizations. Her second book, Strategies of Vote Buying: Democracy, Clientelism, and Poverty Relief in Mexico (co-authored with Alberto Diaz Cayeros and Federico Estévez), studies the politics of poverty relief. Why clientelism is such a prevalent form of electoral exchange, how it distorts policies aimed at aiding the poor, and when it can be superseded by more democratic and accountable forms of electoral exchange are some of the central questions that the book addresses.

In 2010, she founded the Poverty, Violence, and Governance Lab (POVGOV). There, she pursues a research agenda focused on violence, human rights, and poverty reduction. The mission of  POVGOV is to develop action-oriented research through the elaboration of scientific knowledge that is anchored on state-of-the-art methodologies, multidisciplinary work, and innovative on-the-ground research and training. The Lab regularly incorporates undergraduate, master's, Ph.D., and post-doctoral students to pilot and evaluate interventions to reduce violence, combat human rights abuses, and improve the accountability of law enforcement and justice systems.

Her work has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, World Development, Comparative Political Studies, Annual Review of Political Science, Latin American Research Review, Journal of Theoretical Politics, and other journals.

Prior to joining Stanford in 2001, Professor Magaloni was a visiting professor at UCLA and a professor of Political Science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). She earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University. She also holds a law degree from ITAM.

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to the Philippines Conference Room in Encina Hall may attend in person.