Embrace Dialogue Academia Seminar 6: Violent Nonstate Group Interactions in Colombia's Conflict

Embrace Dialogue Academia Seminars are co-hosted by Embrace Dialogue (Rodeemos el Diálogo, ReD) and Merton College, to build bridges between academic research and policy in topics around peace and conflict in Colombia.

The Logic of Illicit Flows in Armed Conflict: Explaining Variation in Violent Nonstate Group Interactions in Colombia

In this seminar, based on an article published in World Politics, ‘The Logic of Illicit Flows in Armed Conflict’ (2020), Dr. Annette Idler analyses why there is variation in how violent nonstate groups interact in armed conflict.

+ Presenter: Dr. Annette Idler, Visiting Scholar, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University; & Director of Studies, Changing Character of War Centre, University of Oxford

+ Discussant: Dr. Michael Weintraub, Associate Professor, School of Government, Universidad de Los Andes

+ Convener: Dr. Gwen Burnyeat, Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology, Merton College & member of Embrace Dialogue

Where armed conflict and organised crime converge in unstable regions worldwide, these groups sometimes enter cooperative arrangements with opposing groups. Within the same unstable setting, violent nonstate groups forge stable, long-term relations with each other in some regions, engage in unstable, short-term arrangements in others, and dispute each other elsewhere. Even though such paradoxical arrangements have intensified and perpetuated war, extant theories on group interactions that focus on territory and motivations overlook their concurrent character. Challenging the literature that focuses on conflict dynamics alone, she argues that the spatial distribution of illicit flows influences how these interactions vary. By mapping cocaine supply chain networks, Dr. Idler shows that long-term arrangements prevail at production sites, whereas short-term arrangements cluster at trafficking nodes. She demonstrates through process tracing how the logic of illicit flows produces variation in the groups’ cooperative arrangements. Her multiyear, multisited study includes over six hundred interviews in and about Colombia’s remote, war-torn borderlands.