Allegheny Professor Shares Guggenheim Award for Mexico Drug Cartel Research

Allegheny College Political Science Professor Shannan Mattiace is one of three educators who have received a $40,000 Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation award to survey indigenous communities in Mexico about how those areas are able to curtail drug-related violence.

Mattiace is currently in Chile teaching and conducting research as part of a 2018–19 Fulbright Award. She also is partnering with Notre Dame University Faculty Fellow Guillermo Trejo and Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas Fellow Sandra Ley to conduct research in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero.

Political Science Professor Shannan Mattiace is participating in a study of narco violence.

The $40,000 award will be used to hire a Mexican polling company to conduct approximately 1,000 interviews in eastern Guerrero with individuals who use an alternative justice and community policing system as well as those outside the region who use conventional justice and policing systems, Mattiace said.

“We are interested in finding out how people on the ground see their community police and evaluate their alternative justice system,” Mattiace said. “We’ve interviewed leaders from the region, but need to know how legitimate and effective these systems are for citizens. After we get the data, we’ll be able to say much more about the viability of community policing and alternative justice as a potential model for areas of Mexico that have historically been ignored by governmental officials and that are currently under siege by transnational criminal organizations.”

The educators are studying areas in southern Mexico where indigenous villages in the mountainous highlands have been able to fend off widespread activity by drug traffickers. The area is considered one of the most peaceful in Mexico despite being in Guerrero state, which is racked with drug-trafficking violence. The team is surveying communities that have both fended off the narco violence and those that have not.

“We hope that this research will contribute to the ongoing policy conversation in Mexico about criminal violence and what communities can do to keep themselves safe,” said Mattiace. “Our preliminary research suggests that it is community organization scaled up to a regional level of coordination that seems to protect communities from narco violence. Depending on what we find in the field, we hope to be able to make recommendations to governmental officials that support regional efforts of community policing and conflict resolution.”

While in Chile, Mattiace is teaching and lecturing on immigration, Latin American indigenous and social movements, and Mexican politics at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.