Lecture by Markus-Michael Müller
A Political Ethnography of Securitizing Neoliberalism and Urban Policing in Mexico City
by Markus-Michael Müller, Assistant Professor in Political Science at ZI Lateinamerika-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin.
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It is widely accepted within the debates on the “urbanization of neoliberalism” that the spread of neoliberalism has contributed to the emergence of an increasingly globalized urban policy regime. In addition to the adherence to free market ideals, international competitiveness, welfare state retrenchment and a focus on inner-city regeneration through real-estate development, another core element of this policy regime consists of the growing securitization of urban space. The latter is in general associated with the export and implementation of zero-tolerance and broken windows inspired policing, lawfare and surveillance practices in cities around the globe. These developments are often portrayed as all-powerful top-down processes that unfold in an unmediated way, leading to the growing criminalization and penalization of the apparently powerless urban “undesirables.”
This presentation critically engages with these debates through the lens of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Mexico City. It takes the local securitization of urban space under neoliberalism as a strategic entry point for studying the local and transnational character of contemporary forms of urban policing and discusses the analytical value (and limitations) of ethnographic research for understanding the site-specific, mediated, contested, contingent and therefore inherently unstable nature of global urban neoliberalism as a securitizing policy regime. In doing so, the paper also reflects upon how to identify strategic field sites for ethnographic research as well as upon the related ethical dilemmas involved in conducting this type of field-based research.