Fall 2024

The Global Politics of Drug Trafficking

Listed in: Latinx and Latin Amer Studies, as LLAS-202  |  Political Science, as POSC-201  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-201


Manuela Picq (Section 01)


(Offered as POSC 201, SWAG 201, and LLAS 202) Drug trafficking is now a major aspect of international relations. This course approaches the international political economy of drug trafficking, from its trade routes on global markets to its influence in shaping nation-states. As governments declare “wars on drugs” from Colombia to the Philippines, narco-politics permeate local and national government, define international relations, and inspire pop culture. The course has three main goals:1) to offer an empirical overview of drug trafficking globally, 2) to analyze how it operates, from local recruitment to transnational alliances and mechanisms of money laundering in fiscal paradises, and 3) to understand how it shapes the current international system, from pop culture to sovereignty. We compare the different operating systems of Mexican drug cartels like Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación to the Albanian Mafia and gangs like Mara Salvatrucha in El Salvador and Los Choneros in Ecuador. In the process, we discuss their cultural impacts, from the “narco-corrido” music in Mexico to their relation to religion and sexuality. We also shed light on body politics to understand the nexus of drug trafficking with poverty, racialization, and colonial regimes of dispossession. This course navigates the labyrinths and complex pathways of drug trafficking from electoral politics to its investment in extractive industries like mining to understand how narco dynamics have come to de facto rule states and communities worldwide.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Karl Lowenstein Senior Lecturer Picq

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to Political Science, SWAG, and LLAS majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: collaborative work, readings, written essays, oral presentations, debate and research.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024