Transnational Organized Crime and International Security: Business as Usual?

By Mats Berdal; Mónica Serrano | Go to book overview

11
From Small-Time Smuggling
to Big-Time Racketeering:
Turkey and the Middle East
Philip Robins

Transnational organized crime does not often feature in academic writings on Turkey and the Middle East. In general disciplinary terms, this reflects the relative paucity of studies undertaken from a transnationalrelations perspective. 1 However, it may also be explained more specifically in two ways. First, until relatively recently the Middle East was not seriously afflicted either by crimes against persons or property, or by random crimes of violence. Second, Middle East specialists have, for whatever reason, chosen not to focus on subjects that highlight crime as a social, economic, or legal phenomenon. Thus there are few studies of criminals, grayand-black economic activity, or even the police and legal sectors (a rare exception is Rogan 2001).

The absence of a systematic treatment of the subject is even more surprising given some of the issues that dominate the literature on the Middle East. For example, political economy has been the subject of major research in Middle Eastern studies for more than two decades, but with a remarkably selective research agenda. Thus certain transnational subjects, such as regional labor migration, have received extensive and serious treatment, while others, including smuggling and illegal drugs, have for the most part been ignored (see Birks and Sinclair 1980; Ritterband 1978; Stanton Russell 1990). The nature of the state in the modern Middle East is a second area of conceptual concern over which those active in social studies regularly agonize (see Ayubi 1995; Bromley 1994; Owen 1992). This approach has addressed many relevant issues, from substate loyalties, through the attractiveness of suprastate ideologies, to issues of borders and the workings of state institutions. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, this preoccupation with the state, there is relatively little on the role of the nonstate actors that straddle states. In short, the major subject of crime and its

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