Vanwege de coronamaatregelen kan de onderwijsvorm of tentaminering afwijken. Zie voor actuele informatie de betreffende cursuspagina’s op Brightspace.


nl en

Neoliberalism and Illegality: Flows, Commodities, Locations


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations, specialisation International Studies. Otherwise, please contact the instructor.


Illegality is a social construction, and it is defined within a particular historical context. Under the influence of the political, economic and cultural process identified as global neoliberalism, new definitions of illegality have been promoted since the late 20th century by international agencies and trade agreements to control flows, commodities and locations.

By looking at material exchanges between regions and the state policies to halt illegality, this course investigates the relation between illegality and neoliberalism. What has been the impact of global neoliberalism on the definition of illegality? Has globalisation and the removal of commercial and national barriers eased the emergence of new crimes? How are these process played out across geographical settings?

The course draws on specific case studies from a global perspective, including human trafficking and terrorism in the United States, cigarette smuggling in India, coffee-shops in the Netherlands, anti-drug policies in Mexico, and counterfeit and piracy in China. The bibliography includes innovative, field-based case studies that represent the state of the art in the study and theorisation of illegality, transnational crime and neoliberalism from a multidisciplinary perspective, including anthropology, geography and political science.

Course Objectives

  • Build knowledge on ongoing debates on neoliberalism, illegality and globalisation

  • Conduct bibliographic/documentary research on specific case studies, from a global perspective

  • Acquisition of academic abilities: writing a research paper


Monday, 15.00 – 17.00

Mode of instruction

Lecture and seminar

Course Load

  • Lectures (12X2hrs) 24

  • Reading materials (300pp.) 43

  • Assignments (3.000w) 73

  • Writing research paper (5.000w)140
    TOTAL: (10ECs): 280 hrs.

Assessment Method

  • One oral presentation 10%

  • A synthesis on literature (2000 words) 20%

  • Outline research paper (1000 words) 20%

  • Research paper (5000 words) 50%


Lectures and assignments will be available on Blackboard

Reading list

Bibliography (TENTATIVE)

  • Aguiar, José Carlos G.
    2012 ‘Policing New Illegalities: Piracy, Raids, and Madrinas’. In Violence, Coercion, and State-Making in Twentieth-Century Mexico. W. Pansters (ed.). Palo Alto: Sanford University Press: 159-184.

  • Andreas, Peter
    2013 Smuggler nation: How Illicit Trade Made America. Oxford: Oxford University Press,

  • Comaroff, J., & Comaroff, J. L. (Eds.)
    2006 Law and Disorder in the Postcolony. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.

  • Gootenberg, Peter
    2007 The’Pre-Colombian’Era of Drug Trafficking in the Americas: Cocaine, 1945-1965. The Americas, 64(2), 133-176.

  • Hardt, Michael & Antonio Negri
    2001 Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  • Hobsbawm, Eric
    2000 Bandits. London: Abacus.

  • Mathews, Gordon, Gustavo Lins Ribeiro, and Carlos Alba Vega, eds.
    2012 Globalization from Below. The World’s Other Economy. London: Routledge.

  • Veen, Hans van der
    2009 ‘Regulation in Spite of Prohibition: The Control of Cannabis Distribution in Amsterdam’. Cultural Critique 71(1): 129-147.

  • Pieke, Frank & Biao Xiang
    2010 ‘Legality and Labor: Chinese Migratory Workers in Great Britain’, Encounters, 3: 15-38.

Further reading

  • Bayart, Jean-François
    2007 Globa Subjects. A Political Critique of Globalization. Cambridge: Polity Press.

  • Coombe, Rosemary J.
    1998 The cultural life of intellectual properties: authorship, appropriation, and the law. Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Matta, Roberto da
    1991 Carnivals, rogues, and heroes: An interpretation of the Brazilian dilemma. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

  • Mattelart, Tristan
    2009 Audio-visual piracy: towards a study of the underground networks of cultural globalization. Global Media and Communication 5(3):308-326.

  • Tagliacozzo, Eric, and Wen-chin Chang, eds.
    2011 Chinese circulations: Capital, commodities, and networks in Southeast Asia. Durham: Duke University Press Books.

  • Wacquant, Loïc
    2009 Punishing the poor. The neoliberal goernment of social insecurity. Durkham and London: Duke University Press.

  • Xiu, Lui
    2010 ‘Organized Crime and the Black Economy in China’. Working Papers Series, no. 7, August, Global Consortium on Security Transformation (GCST).

Contact information

Dr. José Carlos G. Aguiar. ### Remarks

Based on bibliographic and documental sources, students will carry out a short research project on the control of illegality (goods, ideas or people) in a specific context. The study can include an airport, harbour, public space, legal reform, state policy, international organization or lobby in any location of the world.