Infrastructures of Desire: Transport Mobilities and Immobilities in the Mexican Drug Trade during the 20th Century

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:50 AM
Columbia 8 (Washington Hilton)
Michael Kirkland Bess, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas
The drug trade provides ample opportunities of necessary analysis for mobility scholars. The trafficking organizations that produce and distribute illicit drugs have improvised existing technologies of mobility, using automobiles, planes, boats, submarines, underground tunnels, and individual carriers to create an intermodal transport network that resists state interdiction efforts. Moreover, public infrastructure, like the U.S. interstate highway system, provides an opening for these organizations to quickly reach markets and expand their commercial presence. Given the possibilities of these technologies of mobility to facilitate the drug trade, scholars of mobility and transport must engage with the literature on drug policy.

A critical understanding of drug mobilities must include analysis of how markets are linked together. The reduced costs for regional and transnational mobility likewise provided structural benefits to the drug trade. Organizations could simply insert themselves into the existing infrastructure, using highways, charting flight paths, purchasing and converting vehicles to transport product. In doing so, they developed intermodal mobilities that relied on various forms of movement to reach desired markets. State interdiction campaigns operated as “mobilities regimes” against traffickers, where the contention between mobility for some and immobility for others, gives rise to a regulatory regime that relies heavily on “big data” to organize individuals according to risk analysis profiles. This paper seeks to put the literature on the drug trade and drug policy in conversation with mobilities studies and transport history, using Mexico’s history as a case study to better understand the linkages across these fields.