Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World

Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World

Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World

Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World

Synopsis

Carolyn Nordstrom explores the pathways of global crime in this stunning work of anthropology that has the power to change the way we think about the world. To write this book, she spent three years traveling to hot spots in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States investigating the dynamics of illegal trade around the world--from blood diamonds and arms to pharmaceuticals, exotica, and staples like food and oil. Global Outlaws peels away the layers of a vast economy that extends from a war orphan in Angola selling Marlboros on the street to powerful transnational networks reaching across continents and oceans. Nordstrom's extraordinary fieldwork includes interviews with scores of informants, including the smugglers, victims, power elite, and profiteers who populate these economic war zones. Her compelling investigation, showing that the sum total of extra-legal activities represents a significant part of the world's economy, provides a new framework for understanding twenty-first-century economics and economic power. Global Outlaws powerfully reveals the illusions and realities of security in all areas of transport and trade and illuminates many of the difficult ethical problems these extra-legal activities pose.

Excerpt

The Roque [a vast unregulated international market in Angola] was
born in a conversation between two businesspeople expelled from the
city. Two miserable marginalized people who after many setbacks, met
one another outside the city, not far from the ocean, at a clandestine
locale to sell and earn what they could so that they could help maintain
their families. So began everything …

HENDRIK NETO (2001)

Who are the criminals of the twenty-first century? The businesspeople who lie on a customs form to reduce their taxes so they can send pharmaceuticals more cheaply to the needy? The customs agents who let these shipments through because “everyone benefits”? The people who understand how this system works and slip explosives into the pharmaceuticals speeding unchecked across borders? The robber barons who make a profit on all this regardless of who lives or dies? In order to answer this question, I spent three of the first five years of this fledgling century exploring on foot the pathways of global crime. It is an anthropological journey that began with survival and profiteering in the center of Angola when that country was still suffering a severe war; it then wound across the smuggling routes of several continents to the wharfs of Rotterdam and the Port of Los Angeles. In the flux that defines the world of the illegal, beginnings are often endings and vice versa—vice being the operative word here—so I begin this book with one of the later entries in my fieldnotes:

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