Disappearances in Mexico: Searching for Explanations Through Interdisciplinary Social Science (03.21.24)

Please join us on Wednesday, March 21, from 3:30 to 4:45 at the Pardee School of Global Studies, 121 Bay State Road for a lecture by Diane Davis:

Disappearances in Mexico: Searching for Explanations Through Interdisciplinary Social Science

As of early this year the total number of people classified as disappeared in Mexico since the mid-1960s has hovered between 111,000 and 113,000, depending on sources. These numbers soared dramatically beginning in 2006, when Mexico faced a variety of changes ranging from increased cartel-state complicity to growing drug-related violence and the ascendance of a hard-line PAN president. The return of the county’s historically dominant ruling party, the PRI, only accelerated the trend, while the election of left-populist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also failed to make any dent in these numbers. How can we explain the origins of these tragedies and the continued failure of authorities to stop them? Diane Davis will draw on a range of social science disciplines to shed light on the ways that Mexico’s history and the evolution of its security apparatus laid the groundwork for both disappearances and the Mexican state’s incapacity to protect its citizens and uphold the rule of law, leading to what some now consider to be one of the deadliest countries of the world for journalists, human rights activists, women, and myriad other innocent victims.

Diane E. Davis is the Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Development and Urbanism and former Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). She also is the director of the Mexican Cities Initiative at the GSD, and faculty chair of the committee on Mexico at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American studies at Harvard. Before to moving to the GSD in 2011, Davis served as the head of the International Development Group in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, where she also was Associate Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.  Trained as a sociologist with an interest in cities in Latin America (BA in Geography, Northwestern University; Ph.D. in sociology, UCLA) Davis’s research interests include the relations between urbanization and national development, urban governance, urban social movements,  and informality, with a special emphasis on Mexico. Her current research focuses on police corruption and urban violence as well as spatial strategies to minimize risk and foster resilience in the face of these and other vulnerabilities. Books include Cities and Sovereignty: Identity Conflicts in the Urban Realm (Indiana University Press, 2011); Discipline and Development: Middle Classes and Prosperity in East Asia and Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2004); Irregular Armed Forces and their Role in Politics and State Formation (Cambridge University Press, 2003); and Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century (Temple University Press 1994; Spanish translation 1999).

Moderated by Ana Villarreal, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Boston University.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Sociology and the Initiative on Cities.

Disappearances in Mexico: Searching for Explanations through Interdisciplinary Social Science

Wednesday, March 21, 2024, 3:30 to 4:45 PM • Pardee School of Global Studies, 121 Bay State Road


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