Call for Papers: Political Power, Criminality and Conflict

Date: 16th of September 2022
Submission of abstracts: 30th June 2022
Notification of Selected Papers: 06th July 2022
Venue: The Helix, Dublin City University

How and in which sense contemporary civil wars can be deemed political and/or criminal? A standard answer of sorts to this question, has become widely predominant within some literatures in the last decades. In the aftermath of the so-called economic theory of conflict and the greed vs. grievance debate, as well as the new war paradigm, the focus of civil war studies shifted decisively to understanding “predatory” behaviours and rent-seeking as the raison d’etre of most contemporary conflict. Other theories came later, such as the crime-terror continuum, which builds on the previous approaches, and views conflict as a continuum which at one end has pure political motivations and at the other criminal ones: the more you engage in criminal behaviour, the less political you are and vice versa.

This approach has been robustly criticised over the past 15 years; however, in the process, we have been left with unsuitable concepts to handle the complexity of the overlaps and interactions between civil war, political power and criminality. Illegal activities have been reified as if they were not the product of a political process. Likewise, politics and crime are understood as in the antipodes (as in the continuum debate), while both can, indeed, be co-constitutive.

This conference, organised by the International Institute for Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction (IICRR) of the Dublin City University (DCU), aims at contributing to a better understanding of the ways in which criminality and politics interact in civil war. Our departure point is the understanding of politics and criminality as two historically differentiated domains of human activity, that play out in different forms vis-á-vis organised political violence. Different, but interrelated and overlapping. Thus, we want to capture their interactions, connections, and convergences. As importantly, we will not focus solely on irregular actors or rebels, and bring back the State and legal actors into this debate. The conference builds on the experience of a virtual workshop on June 10th 2021, which served as the basis for a special issue in the Journal of Political Power 15 (1) 2022 on ‘Political Power, Criminality and Conflict’, which explores some of these questions. This special issue was largely focused on the experiences of Colombia and the ex Yugoslavia; this conference aims at extending this debate to other experiences elsewhere and therefore to bring new insights into this theoretical and practical debate.

This will be a one-day conference bringing contributions focused on exploring the links between political power and criminality in conflict contexts, grounded on solid empirical evidence, and privileging critical engagement with theory and conceptual discussion. This conference aims at facilitating Global South-North and Global South-South exchanges. Some of the questions that will guide the theme of the conference were already outlined in the
special issue:

  • How are conflict and criminality related to State formation in different contexts?
  • What determines the political space of a criminalised actor in a particular context?
  • When and how does the criminality of an actor undermine their political nature?
  • What consequences do criminalisation processes have for the conduct of war, peacebuilding and larger processes of state formation?

The conference will also explore a proposal to develop an edited volume during 2023 on the basis of the presentations.

Abstracts should be between 250 and 500 words, outlining the core argument, methods and sample. Five keywords should also be added, and authors should provide full institutional affiliation and provide between 50 and 100 words of a biographical note. For questions regarding the topic of the conference and for submission of abstracts, please e-mail José A. Gutiérrez at [email protected] 

José A. Gutiérrez (Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction, Dublin City University & Universidad Santo Tomás, Colombia)
Francisco Gutiérrez-Sanín (Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia)
John Doyle (Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction, Dublin City University).

Image Credits: Carlos Villalón Santa María (

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