CLAS Presents: Fernando Montero
Over the past 14 years, Nicaragua and Honduras have channeled US military assistance to install Army and Navy outposts in practically all villages bordering the Caribbean Sea in the Afro-Indigenous region of Moskitia. For the first time in history, both countries have systematically recruited Miskitu (Afro-Indigenous) soldiers to staff these rural outposts. While military commanders often encourage these Miskitu officers to extort rural villagers, entangle themselves predatorily with female residents, and participate in criminalized activities, officers at the lowest levels of the military hierarchy are habitually prosecuted for engaging in such practices. Thus, these officers’ discretionary authority is paradoxically both sizable and revocable. The revocability of military authority has emerged as a key mechanism for the state to govern itself, racializing the lowest levels of its security apparatus while distributing the risks and benefits of a contradictory modus operandi engaging state officials in both drug interdiction and drug commerce. Based on ethnographic research in the Afro-Indigenous Moskitia on either side of the Nicaragua-Honduras border, this talk examines military labor among Miskitu soldiers to offer an analysis of Central American drug control regimes that escape the analytical traps posed by the debates between the prohibitionist “rule of law” and the critique of non-prohibitionist “corruption.”
Fernando Montero (Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University Irving Medical Center) is an anthropologist specializing on security regimes and the War on Drugs in the Americas. His current book project, titled Martial Love, examines the everyday life of military occupation in the Afro-Indigenous Moskitia region of Central America (Nicaragua/Honduras). Centering on the sexual and romantic affairs between Miskitu women and Nicaraguan and Honduran soldiers in recently occupied Miskitu coastal villages, the book argues that understanding Central American security regimes requires attention not only to the history of war and extractivism in Afro-Indigenous regions, but also to Afro-Indigenous kinship and gender norms, property forms and economic practices, and overlapping jurisdictions of regional governance. This project builds on Montero’s earlier field research on policing and mass incarceration in the segregated Puerto Rican neighborhood of North Philadelphia.
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