2017 Year in Review

2017 has been quite a busy year, both professionally and personally. In September, I started a new post at the University of Warwick in the department of Politics and International Studies. It’s a great department, regularly ranked among the top five Politics departments in the UK. I am teaching an MA course on Rising Powers and finalist undergrad course on Latin America that combines comparative politics and IR. My new students and colleagues have been great. We also moved to Leamington Spa, which was shortly thereafter named happiest town in the UK. I’m not sure about that, but it is full of coffee and tea shops, so it might be the most caffeinated, which is basically the same thing.

I spent about two months earlier in the year in Colombia on a British Council Researcher Links, collaborating with my friend and colleague Sebastián Bitar of Universidad de los Andes. We held a number of events related to Colombian foreign policy and the effects of the peace process. I also worked on an — ultimately unsuccessful 😦 — ESRC New Investigators grant application. Seb and I are wrapping up a journal article as one of the products of that collaboration.

A number of publications bunched together, making 2017 look like a very productive year. My book was released in paperback in June and received a number of largely positive reviews. The royalties are allowing me to live large, with a moderately priced dinner for two every six months. (Just kidding! All royalties go to WOLA.)Continue reading “2017 Year in Review”

New article: The US, Brazil and Latin America: the dynamics of asymmetrical regionalism

unnamedMy newest article is just out as part of a special issue of the journal Contemporary Politics, vol. 24, no. 1. The issue came out of a workshop at the College of Europe, called Between cooperation and competition: major powers in shared neighbourhoods. The workshop and issue were organized and edited by Simon Schunz, Sieglinde Gstöhl & Luk Van Langenhove, who did a great job putting this all together. The whole special issue is available here.

My article looks at US-Brazilian interactions in Latin America, drawing on and extending Brantly Womack’s asymmetry theory (abstract below). Routledge allows me to offer free access to my own article for the first 50 readers through a special link, available for a limited time here. Please help yourself to a free copy, while they last–on the condition that you cite it copiously, of course!

Abstract: Until its recent crisis, Brazil’s rise, combined with seeming US decline and distraction, led observers to declare South America a ‘post-hegemonic’ region. How have US and Brazilian ambitions and capabilities affected the countries’ relations within the shared neighbourhood of the Western Hemisphere? Building on work by Womack, B. [2016. Asymmetry and international relationships. New York: Cambridge University Press], the article analyses the US-Brazil-South America relationship as a regionally located, asymmetrical triangle. During two centre-left presidencies, Brazil sought to shift the dynamics of the hemisphere’s soft triangles. Brazilian diplomacy redefined its neighbourhood as South America, developed exclusive regional groupings, and assumed the role of pivot to shape relationships between the US and South America. In the face of sceptical neighbours and weakened Brazilian capabilities, the regional triangle is likely to return to a more ‘normal’ configuration in which the United States acts as a central, albeit often uninterested, pivot.

Media appearances: Mexico, Venezuela

A couple quick media spots. I talked to The Guardian‘s reporter David Agren about Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal of an “amnesty” for organized criminal bosses, and whether that was likely to reduce violence. In short, I have my doubts. In full, I said, “I am sure some punished narcos would appreciate an amnesty, but it would not do much to stop the ongoing violence. The market and the rewards would continue to exist, and different groups would continue to compete — often violently — over that market.

“Even if a Pax mafiosa were the intention, it is probably not feasible today. First, the organized criminal groups are much more fragmented. Second, they are involved in crimes beyond drug trafficking, and I doubt the Mexican population would stand for official tolerance of extortion, kidnapping, oil theft, and human trafficking. Those revenue streams would remain in the event of an amnesty. Third, the state is much different. It is less hierarchical, with different parties governing at different levels. Often, the local and state levels are most relevant for organized crime. There is evidence that the party of local government, and changes in party, matter to levels of violence in Mexico. It also means that not everyone would be on board with a proposed pax or even an amnesty.”

I also talked earlier in the day with Gerhard Elfers, the impeccably dressed Business News Anchor for DW News, regarding Venezuela’s economic crisis and President Maduro’s proposal for a crypto-currency as a way out of the crisis (or at least around US sanctions.