course

The turn of the century augured a new era based on the rule of law and good governance. Despite the promises of declining underground activities and the integration of informal practices into the formal sector, illicit economies have become more prominent worldwide by taking advantage of technological developments, unhindered capital movements, and lax cross-border controls. From drug and gemstone contraband, counterfeiting or money laundering, new realms of the illicit have emerged, including bio-piracy, cybercrime, sophisticated financial and tax evasion, as well as heightened human and sex trafficking. This seminar assesses the prevalence of informal and criminal spaces and flows in the global economy. Rather than framing illicit economies in strict opposition to lawful practices, or relying on categorizations that obscure key features of these economies, the course examines how illicit economies can emerge alongside, and at times in convergence with, regulated, lawful and formalized economies. How are underground spaces and practices organized and what are the effects of excluding or criminalizing these economies? How does the underground movement of people, capital, information and commodities reposition the limits of what is licit and illicit, formal and informal? Particular attention will be devoted to conceptual definitions as well as the methodological challenges of researching illicit economies.