The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling
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The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling

Max Gallien, Florian Weigand, Max Gallien, Florian Weigand

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eBook - ePub

The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling

Max Gallien, Florian Weigand, Max Gallien, Florian Weigand

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About This Book

The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling offers a comprehensive survey of interdisciplinary research related to smuggling, reflecting on key themes, and charting current and future trends.

Divided into six parts and spanning over 30 chapters, the volume covers themes such as mobility, borders, violent conflict, and state politics, as well as looks at the smuggling of specific goods – from rice and gasoline to wildlife, weapons, and cocaine. Chapters engage with some of the most contentious academic and policy debates of the twenty-first century, including the historical creation of borders, re-bordering, the criminalisation of migration, and the politics of selective toleration of smuggling. As it maps a field that contains unique methodological, ethical, and risk-related challenges, the book takes stock not only of the state of our shared knowledge, but also reflects on how this has been produced, pointing to blind spots and providing an informed vision of the future of the field.

Bringing together established and emerging scholars from around the world, The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling is an indispensable resource for students and researchers of conflict studies, borderland studies, criminology, political science, global development, anthropology, sociology, and geography.

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1 Studying smuggling

Max Gallien and Florian Weigand
DOI: 10.4324/9781003043645-1
Smuggling is an economic activity that is politically defined and socially embedded.1 In its functional essence, smuggling is typically trade, anchored in the demand for certain products and the costs of their movement. At the same time, it is segmented from legal trade through laws, which are, along with their enforcement, deeply political, tied into processes of state-formation and demarcation, economic regulation and prohibition, and geopolitics and conflict. Unlike most trade, smuggling in its perception and study is also intimately tied to the figure of the ‘smuggler’ and the particular social space of the borderland in which they are imagined to operate – as a risk-taker, a broker, a hustler, a worker, a profiteer, a villain, or a local hero. Consequently, the study of smuggling always has attracted a range of disciplines: anthropology; geography; economics; sociology; history; law; and political science. Even so, it rarely has been genuinely multi-disciplinary. Discussions are frequently siloed along regional, disciplinary, and methodological lines that are connected insufficiently with each other. Frequently, smugglers appear not just on the geographic margins of states but on the margins of arguments that are primarily not about them and are imagined and framed to fit the respective assumptions, theories, and ideologies.2
This handbook is intended to work against these tendencies and toward what might be called ‘smuggling studies.’ Its aim is to bring diverse disciplinary perspectives on smuggling together in one place and in conversation with each other, to highlight themes that emerge across different areas: the complex relationships among smugglers, states, armed groups, and globalised markets; the role of and impact on borderland communities; the sometimes counterintuitive effects of conflict and ‘anti-smuggling policies;’ and the drivers of heterogeneous dynamics across goods and routes. It also seeks to reflect on the methods and politics that have shaped the study of smuggling and to outline pathways for future research and collaboration. First and foremost, it seeks to present the value of understanding smuggling by placing smuggling at the centre of a field of study, not casting it at the margins, merely as a policy implication or a bogeyman. The remainder of this introduction is split into two broader sections. The first summarises key observations in the study of smuggling, highlighting central themes around conceptions, routes, actors and regulation, while also tracing some of the key developments and fault-lines in this field of study itself. The second section then provides an overview of the purpose, perspective, and content of this volume.

Defining smuggling – in time and space

We define smuggling as the purposeful movement across a border in contravention to the relevant legal frameworks.3 It should be clear from this that smuggling, as an activity and as a field of study, is fundamentally politically defined. Both the borders that make smuggling cross-border trade and the laws that make it illegal are social and political constructs. This of course means that the boundaries of smuggling are movable and embedded as much in the context of an activity than in the activity itself. Critically, they are conditional not just in space but also in time. As historical studies of cross-border trade have often highlighted, the same exchange of food and livestock between two settlements can over the years and without any variation in its practice change from a neighbourly exchange to legal international trade to smuggling.
As many contributions in this volume have highlighted (for example, Nugent; Andreas, in this volume), the history of smuggling, deeply entwined with the processes of border-making, colonialism, and the territorial expansion of states, is an excellent illustration of this dependency on politics. It highlights again the fundamental contextuality of the topic at hand, as different goods and trade corridors have been criminalised and decriminalised across history, while borders have been drawn, erased and re-drawn. While it is frequently referred to as the ‘shadow’ or ‘dark side’ of globalisation, trade or border making, a more historicised approach to smuggling takes away some of the perceived neutrality or inevitability of the dividing line between the legal processes and its ‘underbelly.’ It notes that what is today often taken self-evidently as ‘global drug smuggling’ would have been incomprehensible to an observer from 200 years ago, not just because the borders across which these goods move have changed, but because the very conception of ‘drugs’ as a particular set of criminalised medically harmful recreational substances is distinctly contemporary (see Porter and Hough, 1996).
Naturally, these processes of rule-making and boundary-making have not been shaped merely by geography, changing social norms and their legal codification, but also by political and commercial interests (see for example Durán-Martínez, in this volume). Here, the political drivers behind the historical geographical expansion of the nation-state and of empires have shaped critically the making of borders, the creation of borderlands and the construction of a global legal trade system. Smuggling today often happens across borders that were drawn by colonial powers through communities that remain closely connected (see for example Titeca, in this volume). As historical scholarship has often highlighted, the expansion of state and imperial structures has not demarcated only smuggling, but often not shied away from encouraging it or drawing on it where it was useful, from arms supplies to blockade busting to the opium wars (Andreas, 2014; Harvey, 2016). Opium in particular of course highlights the complex relationship among empire, economic interests, bureaucratic development, and the criminalisation of certain trades (Kim, 2020). It also fits into a wider picture, especially with a view to narcotics, that serves as a reminder that the colonial and imperial history of the making of smuggling both through border-making and the making of global rules of trade and consumption have been embedded deeply in unequal power structures and consequently have been racialised (Koram, 2019) and gendered starkly (Schuster, in this volume). As we note below, the politics of making smuggling – and making smugglers – still disproportionately affects communities not just at geographic but also political margins of the modern state system, from travellers to nomadic pastoral communities. This is especially true given how closely connected modern policy on smuggling is with language around ‘poor governance,’ ‘weak states,’ and ‘under-development,’ considering the power structures that have shaped its context necessarily unsettle common de-politicised conceptions of smuggling and anti-smuggling policy.
While the making of laws and of borders has shaped smuggling, smuggling can also do the same trick in reverse. As a range of contributions in this volume have highlighted, smuggling has actively shaped how borders and borderlands have developed. While Scott famously framed borderlands and their mobility as essential resistance against the ‘last enclosure’ of the state (2009), historians have frequently highlighted the ways in which border communities and smugglers have at times themselves contributed to shaping and legitimising border structures (Nugent, 2002 and in this volume). At the same time, smuggling has been connected to the rise of vast state enforcement apparatuses, both within countries and acrossborders. It has contributed to the justification of state and imperial expansion and contributed to the shape of modern bureaucracies and state structures (Andreas and Nadelmann, 2008), and influenced legislation, from tariffs to prohibition.
Naturally, none of these dynamics are merely historical: legislation around trade and taxation, prohibition and tariffs still are constantly evolving and re-shaping the barriers between legal and illegal trade. In the last few years, a legal global trade in cannabis products, long almost entirely limited to smuggling, has been developing again. Taxes and tariffs on different goods are constantly re-negotiated, and arguments around smuggling are still actively shaping lobbying efforts – for example around taxes on tobacco products (see Gallien, in this volume). While the past decades have seen fewer borders being re-drawn, customs unions and trade agreements are changing the boundaries and barriers of the global trade system, simultaneously accompanied by new trade infrastructure and industries of border fortification, shaped again, by discourses of smuggling and porosity (see Andreas, 2009; Andersson, 2014; Gazzotti in this volume).
As the politics and the violent history underlying the creation and maintenance of modern state and legal systems have created the boundaries that characterise smuggling, they naturally have complicated its definition. Similarly, they have shaped how scholarship has conceptualised, characterised and named smuggling. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the literature on the topic currently has not endorsed one universal set of terms. Researchers, including the authors in this volume, have used a variety of conceptions of the term, or sub-sections of it, and a variety of language around it, from illicit trade to contraband to shadow trade to informal cross-border trade (ICBT) to trafficking. This tapestry typically becomes even more diverse when we leave the language of academia and talk to those engaged in smuggling themselves. Here, some may speak of “livelihood trade,” others of “informal trade,” and others just of “business.” Given the politics of the ‘boundaries of smuggling,’ it should be unsurprising that the language around it has become varied and contested, as academics, policy practitioners and smugglers all seek to establish and subvert these boundaries and the connected normative claims about the activity, the political context that names it illegal, or the local social context that may frame it as immoral or heroic.
The term ‘smuggling’ in particular, may be seen by some as endorsing a statist perspective towards the activity. We would like to highlight here that this is not our intention – we trust our audience not to read a normative position in the term, and defer to the importance, in evaluating smuggling, of its aforementioned context, of which this volume provides riches. We feel it critical to maintain both the fact that the defining features of smuggling are socially constructed and the conviction that this does not make them meaningless in practice. Our aforementioned definition groups within its conception of smuggling some practices which are entirely normalised and tolerated, and which would see both those involved in the trade and some of those studying it balk at the term. We note, however, that the illegality of an activity still can have critical consequences for those involved in it, even if activities are normalised. It can shape the routes or profits available, the payments traders must make, or the violence they may be subject to, including at the hand of the state.
We do not seek to and did not impose a uniform terminology, definition, or perspective on the authors of the individual chapters, as will be evident to the reader. Instead, the claim that we seek to make here is that, within this diverse language, and within these contingent and shifting boundaries, there lies a field of study to which a variety of methodological and disciplinary perspectives are making contributions that can speak to each other and be legible across terminological differences.4 Finally, it is worth noting that while smuggling requires borders, these do not necessarily have to be (or lay claim to being) national borders between states. Goods can be smuggled into a prison, past a barricade into a city under siege, or from an area controlled by an armed group to a territory dominated by a different group. The focus of this volume, however, lies primarily in smuggling across international borders, alongside the particular geographic, social and political structures that they give rise to.

The content of smuggling

The study of smuggling has seen the development of numerous sub-divisions and sub-categorisations of its titular activity, some structured around the scope of the activity (such as bootlegging vs wholesale smuggling), the actors involved (see Dobler, 2016 or Goodhand et al., in this volume), or the routes taken (such as maritime smuggling, see Bruwer in this volume). Other distinctions have categorised territory according to its position in a wider smuggling macro-structure, dividing between spaces of production and transit, and between entrepot and consumption territory (Igue and Soule, 1992; Bennafla, 2014). While we do not expand on these here, we think it worth expanding on some distinctions and observations that are based on the goods that are being traded. Again, some preliminary conceptual points are in order.
First, some chapters in this volume reference a distinction between ‘licit’ and ‘illicit’ smuggling. This distinguishes between the smuggling of goods for which a legal trade corridor exists that is not subject to additional restrictions, such as rice (Quitoriano, in this volume) or gasoline (Eaton, in this volume), and the smuggling of goods for which it does not, which typically includes goods such as firearms (Marsh and Pinson, in this volume), narcotics (Mansfield; Duran-Martinez, in this volume), or rare wildlife (Felbab-Brown, in this volume).
Second, this volume also includes chapters on the smuggling of people. We have included them not because we understand the smuggling of people and the smuggling of goods as essentially the same, or because we seek to understand humans merely as ‘cargo.’ As each of the respective chapters highlight, human smuggling spurs unique dynamics: it complicates the roles of smugglers and of law enforcement and gives rise to further distinctions around consent and relationships between smugglers and smuggled that are not applicable to the smuggling of goods. However, we have decided to include these studies in this volume because we believe that the two areas of scholarship can benefit from closer communication, especially given the rich and critical history of scholarship on human mobility. As the different contributions in this volume powerfully illustrate, the study of smuggling of people has made contributions to our understanding of the role of networks, the politics and effects of anti-smuggling policies, and the entanglement between smuggling and livelihoods that provide critical interventions into our understanding of smuggling more widely (see Bird; Deshingkar; Gazzotti; Raineri; van Liempt, in this volume).
Historically, the study of smuggling has not been characterised only by disciplinary and methodological divisions, but also often by segmentations based on the study of different goods, with particularly active sub-fields developing around the smuggling of different narcotics, hydrocarbons, and agricultural products. The chapters on different smuggled goods in...

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