You and what army? Violence, the state, and Mexico’s war on drugs

Geoffrey A. Boyce, Jeffrey Banister, Jeremy Slack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


In late 2010, WikiLeaks made public hundreds of private communications between US State Department facilities in Mexico and Washington, DC. The documents contain frank observations made by US bureaucrats and officials about Mexican politics and government, but are especially pointed in their treatment of Mexico’s declared ‘War on Drugs’, which, since 2006, has been the focus of unprecedented negotiation, cooperation, and tension between the two governments. With a few notable exceptions, geographers have largely stayed away from the study of illegal practices, and relatively little research in this area employs an explicitly spatial analytic. In this paper, we examine how the spatialization of the drug phenomenon operates as an official strategy of intervention - illicit phenomena like the illegal drug trade are rendered in spatial terms in order to become amenable to specific kinds of state intervention. This requires considerable boundary work, and we draw from the WikiLeaks archive to explore how state actors continuously work to materially and discursively isolate trafficking from a larger social, political and institutional context. The paper concludes with a discussion of the contradictory and incoherent narratives and conditions that constantly threaten to overflow these constructed boundaries, along with the structuring assumptions of the drug war.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-468
Number of pages23
JournalTerritory, Politics, Governance
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015


  • Counter-narcotics policy
  • Drug trafficking
  • Illicit geographies
  • Mexico
  • State theory
  • WikiLeaks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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