Policing & Violence in Venezuela

Since 2012 I have conducted ethnographic, interview, and archival research on policing and violence in Venezuela. This research lays the groundwork for two current book projects. The first, Policing the Revolution: Chaos, Conflict, and State Violence in Venezuela, analyzes the relationship between revolutionary politics and state violence. In the book, I show how revolutionary politics can fracture police-state relations, generating a sense of insecurity and vulnerability within the police that motivates violent action. Though police officers are often taken to be the state’s first line of defense, their actions do not represent state interests at all times and in all places. In fact, by paying close attention to the lived experiences of police officers, I show that their actions may seek to disrupt policies and challenge state interests.

In The Paradox of Violence in Venezuela, David Smilde, Verónica Zubillaga and I bring together evidence from the Venezuelan case to theorize the relationship between poverty, inequality, and violence. We challenge previous research--which has tended to attribute increasing violence to Chavista rhetoric and ideology--instead arguing that persistent historical and structural inequalities exacerbated by revolutionary politics provide a more compelling explanation.

In August 2018 Leonard Gómez Núñez and I completed 90 interviews and a 4,000 person survey to examine how militarization affects 1). policing tactics and strategies 2). police officers' perceptions of insecurity of citizen security and 3). the organization of criminal groups in Venezuela.

Community Trust and Policing in Medellín

I am currently collaborating with Eric Arias (College of William and Mary), Dorothy Kronick (University of Pennsylvania) and Tara Slough (NYU) on a field experiment in Medellín, Colombia. This experiment measures the effects of police–community meetings and the provision of information on citizens' trust in and collaboration with the police in the city. I have supervised the collection of five sources of qualitative data: ethnographic field notes, attendance sheets, cooperation documents from community meetings, interviews, and focus groups. Currently, this is the most comprehensive data set on police-community meetings in Latin America. This research is part of EGAP’s Metaketa IV project

Gender and Ethnographic Research


Researchers frequently experience sexualized interactions, sexual objectification, and harassment as they conduct fieldwork. However, these experiences are often left out of ethnographers’ “tales from the field” and remain unaddressed within qualitative literature. Patricia Richards (University of Georgia) and I use interviews with 57 qualitative researchers, as well as our own experiences conducted fieldwork, to interrogate this silence. We argue that the androcentric, racist, and colonialist histories of qualitative research construct silence in academia surrounding sexual harassment and other forms of violence researchers face in the field. In 2019, we published Harassed: Gender, Bodies, and Ethnographic Research (University of California Press), advocating for an embodied approach to ethnography that reflexively engages with the ways in which researchers’ bodies shape the knowledge they produce. By challenging these assumptions, we offer an opportunity for researchers, advisors, and educators to consider the multiple ways in which good ethnographic research can be conducted.