Global Outlaws

Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World

CAROLYN NORDSTROM
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pq0qp
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  • Book Info
    Global Outlaws
    Book Description:

    Carolyn Nordstrom explores the pathways of global crime in this stunning work of anthropology that has the power to change the way we think about the world. To write this book, she spent three years traveling to hot spots in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States investigating the dynamics of illegal trade around the world-from blood diamonds and arms to pharmaceuticals, exotica, and staples like food and oil.Global Outlawspeels away the layers of a vast economy that extends from a war orphan in Angola selling Marlboros on the street to powerful transnational networks reaching across continents and oceans. Nordstrom's extraordinary fieldwork includes interviews with scores of informants, including the smugglers, victims, power elite, and profiteers who populate these economic war zones. Her compelling investigation, showing that the sum total of extra-legal activities represents a significant part of the world's economy, provides a new framework for understanding twenty-first-century economics and economic power.Global Outlawspowerfully reveals the illusions and realities of security in all areas of transport and trade and illuminates many of the difficult ethical problems these extra-legal activities pose.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94063-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. x-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  6. NATIONAL

    • CHAPTER 1 THE WAR ORPHAN
      (pp. 3-9)

      I remember him well.

      He was a quiet child, with the impish charm of a boy not yet nine. The fine layer of street dust that covered his body couldn’t disguise his good looks or the bright intelligence in his eyes. He moved through the shell-cratered streets, along bombed-out buildings and around United Nations peacekeeping trucks like he owned them, in some small way. This was, after all, his home—a small Angolan town I am calling “Muleque.” Like anyone living in a dangerous place, one filled with predators and unseen pitfalls, he maintained a ceaseless vigilance, even in play....

    • CHAPTER 2 THE BOMBED-OUT SHOP
      (pp. 11-17)

      The boy went off to peddle his cigarettes. The shopkeeper, that proverbial “uncle” of the abandoned and the orphaned, was nowhere to be seen, but his wares were. Sonys from Japan glittered seductively from dusty wooden shelves, generators from China hulked on mud-splattered floors to power them. A DVD of an American blockbuster just released in exclusive urban cinemas was tossed casually on the counter. Bottles of Scotch whisky stood clustered on a shelf, supposedly imported from Scotland, but more likely counterfeit in a factory in Southern Africa. You could buy the Mercedes parked out front, though how you could...

    • CHAPTER 3 COCONUTS AND CIGARETTES: SOME DEFINITIONS
      (pp. 19-25)

      Perhaps we can’t predict economies’ trajectories because we don’t know what an economy is.

      Legal. Regulated. Formal. Legitimate. Recorded.

      Illegal. Informal. Illicit. Unregulated. Unrecorded. Extra-state. Extra-legal. Parallel. Second economy. Gray market. Brown market. Illegitimate. Underground. Subterranean. Clandestine. Shadows.

      What words apply to the intersections of the il/legal?Power? State? Chaos? Invisible empires?Formal published analyses generally fail here. The answer is perhaps most evident in everyday experience—a conversation I had on a cargo plane carrying supplies to the frontlines:

      The pilot handed me an (undeclared/untaxed) Marlboro before takeoff. I had been smoking (informal economy/untaxed) cigarettes with names like “Life”...

    • CHAPTER 4 THE GOV’NOR’S RED TRACTORS
      (pp. 27-35)

      Let me tell you the story of a small Angolan town I will call “Mata’lo.” It is a study in the building of countries and personal empires; an insight into development and deadly profiteering; a postmortem formal economic studies tend to keep silent.

      It is also a story of brand-new, bright-red tractors.

      Before I get to the Gov’nor’s red tractor, let me set the stage.

      I returned to Okidi’s hometown five years after I first met him. The war continued to take untold numbers of lives, wipe out entire communities, and provide a few with immense fortunes. Every time I...

    • CHAPTER 5 MILITARY TAKEOVERS (OR, HOW TO OWN A COUNTRY)
      (pp. 37-45)

      There are many truths and many fables defining militaries; this is just one of them. As Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien writes inThe Things They Carried:

      In many cases a true war story cannot be believed. If you believe it, be skeptical. Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness. (O’Brien 1990: 70)

      This account complements that of the Gov’nor,¹ but it speaks to more than military control and is about more than profit. It’s the story of owning a country. There is...

    • CHAPTER 6 THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AMPUTEES
      (pp. 47-55)

      The truckers quietly moved their diamonds out and loudly moved their beer and commodities into town. The Gov’nor shipped his tomatoes abroad without worrying about how quietly or noisily he worked. The shopkeeper and the street child went about their business, holding down the town’s center of commercial gravity. Amid this swirl of activity, other groups of people were redefining the economic landscapes of the country and its worldwide links in ways rarely recognized in business analyses.

      These latter business ventures—challenging established notions of legality and nationality, of the divides between civil society, NGOs, and development—are best summed...

    • CHAPTER 7 ROBBER BARONS
      (pp. 57-68)

      Tony Hodges and I were sitting having a cup of coffee in Luanda in 2002, talking about his new book,Angola from Afro-Stalinism to Petro-Diamond Capitalism. It is an excellent book on the intersections of national wars, resource plundering, and elite profiteering in Angola. I complimented Hodges on the model he had employed in his book and said I was interested in how such dynamics played across not only a single country, but the world in general. He asked, confused:

      What are you talking about?

      I explained I was looking at how all kinds of economic enterprises variously spurred development...

  7. INTERNATIONAL

    • CHAPTER 8 THE BORDER POST–A BILLION-DOLLAR TRUCK STOP (GOING INTERNATIONAL)
      (pp. 71-81)

      We stood at the border looking across the no-man’s-lands into Angola, the country of the war orphan, his benefactor the shopkeeper, and the businessman’s benefactors, the Gov’nor and the generals. I was there to do some fieldwork at the intersections of war and peace, commerce and transition, fortune hunters and scoundrels, to see how the tomatoes and diamonds moved from remote corners of production into global flows. The border was the first step out into the larger world.

      “Gina,” a friend who teaches at the local university, had offered to take me on the long drive to the border. Her...

    • CHAPTER 9 ROMANCING THE STONE: BORDERS AND BUSINESSPEOPLE
      (pp. 83-91)

      While “American Vacation” and Gina were playing pool, a businessman joined me. I asked him:

      “Which would you rather have, diamonds or tomatoes?”

      It was a question I had been grappling with since seeing the Gov’nor’s farm across the border. I didn’t expect the question would mean a great deal to someone who didn’t know what I was interested in, so I was surprised when he replied:

      Depends on what kind of tomatoes.

      The businessman had come with his own nickname: “Nod.” He had gotten it from his friends, who said he was always smiling and nodding in agreement. He...

    • CHAPTER 10 THE WASHING MACHINE: LAUNDERING, PART ONE
      (pp. 93-102)

      Dirty money—generated outside of the formal economy—is useless. Money that can’t buy property, construct businesses, enter banking systems, purchase commodities, or speculate on equities is worth no more than a piece of paper. A diamond that can’t be sold doesn’t even make a good paperweight.

      A casual comment made in what Africans call a “cool drink shop” sparked this analysis of laundering. The place was nothing fancy: it boasted a single plastic table and four chairs and stood on a dirt lane off the only tarred road in town. Rogue winds and passing cars blew dust across the...

  8. GLOBAL

    • CHAPTER 11 DIAMONDS AND FISH: GOING GLOBAL
      (pp. 105-113)

      Before I began this study into the intersections of un/regulated economies, I had absolutely no interest in seafood, other than to eat it. But if you study smuggling and the extra-legal, it seems you can’t get away from fish.

      On the southern coast of Africa, a number of drug gangs have moved from running illegal narcotics to fish smuggling. Abalone and its cousins are illegally harvested and sold worldwide, but my favorite story is the one about the Patagonian Toothfish.

      The Toothfish is an endangered Antarctic sea bass that fetches hundreds of dollars per kilo in the world’s markets. Because...

    • CHAPTER 12 PORTS
      (pp. 115-127)

      The war orphan’s cigarettes, the shop owner’s wares, the military’s weapons, the truckers’ commodities all tend to journey through ports.

      More than 90 percent of world trade is conducted by the international shipping industry. Around 50,000 ships registered in 150 countries are manned by more than a million sailors from virtually every country in the world.¹

      To understand economic globalization, it is useful to see the world as traders always have. For them, the world is not neatly divided into sovereign states easily identified as unchanging landmasses with distinct borders and even more distinct rules, laws, and regulations.

      Goods move....

    • CHAPTER 13 DRUGS
      (pp. 129-137)

      On March 16, 2002,The Herald(South Africa) ran two brief articles on drug busts. Both were short pieces on the inside pages; neither warranted headline status. Both were about raids of illegal shipments coming into South African ports.

      The first embodied the lore of drugs: shipping containers carrying many kilos of cocaine. Multi-million-dollar dreams and disruption. The newspaper didn’t give a detailed picture of the ship, its crew, and the drug runners, but they didn’t have to. Popular movies, incensed community leaders, and chain-bookstore publications have long painted a graphic picture of shadowy people in dark clothing and darker...

    • CHAPTER 14 THE CULTURES OF CRIMINALS
      (pp. 139-147)

      Marks, a legendary figure in the annals of British crime, reckons that his cannabis smuggling in the 1980s ran to hundreds of tons.

      “That’s a lot of trust,” I replied.

      Marks was my last interview after a year and a half traveling several of the world’s continents doing research for this book. I grew up on gangster movies, theGodfatherbooks, and sensationalist media accounts of triad, mafia, cartel, and criminal gang violence. But in my research, I meet hundreds of people who make a living by bending the laws, and I know hundreds more who wander across the lines...

    • CHAPTER 15 THE CULTURES OF COPS
      (pp. 149-155)

      David Hesketh, the head of International Assistance, U.K. Customs, warmed to the topic of crime and morality. He is a man who is bored by simple black-and-white assessments. To talk of legality alone, he explained, doesn’t begin to capture the fullness, the truly interesting aspects, of crime and law in the world. “Take Jimmy the Butcher,” he said.

      Jimmy the Butcher, Hesketh explained, was a heroin trafficker. He was a big, stocky man. The “butcher” part of his name might suggest a penchant for certain kinds of violence—but in fact Jimmy actually was a butcher, owning a meat shop...

    • CHAPTER 16 THE WORLD-PORT
      (pp. 157-165)

      Arriving in Rotterdam from Africa, I was greeted by an orderly world. It is one of the world’s largest and most successful ports; there is a good chance the cigarettes the war orphan was selling in Africa passed through Rotterdam.

      Scrubbed streets lead to well-maintained berths with carefully stacked skyscrapers of containers loaded by technologically sophisticated machines onto sleek freighters. Clean buildings and even cleaner port authorities project an impression of “clean business.” The system, like the ships, looks sleek and secure. A sense of comfort and security is transmitted; twenty-first-century commerce passes through these portals and sustains life as...

    • CHAPTER 17 THE INVESTMENT MACHINE: LAUNDERING, PART TWO
      (pp. 167-179)

      In 2001, the South African rand suddenly went from 7 to 14 to the US dollar. That was a boon for people paid in dollars, but a severe blow to the majority of the population. Overnight, people found themselves unable to afford life’s basic necessities. As most of these necessities—food, medicines, fuel, industrial equipment, technology—are purchased in the world’s cosmopolitan centers with dollars or other strong global currencies, people with rands could only buy half of what they had been able to just days before.

      It seemed logical to conclude that a group of people had made a...

    • CHAPTER 18 HUMAN CARGO
      (pp. 181-188)

      On a balmy late summer day in 2004, several thousand containers and I sailed across the Atlantic on a freighter. The ship’s voyage originated in the USA, making several stops along the eastern seaboard before sailing across the Atlantic to call at several ports in Europe.¹ In the high-security, post-9/11 world, this seemed like the closest way to see the world as a commodity would. Or a smuggler.

      Like the cargo, I went from public roads to private shipping with no inspection. Worse, I couldn’t find anyone to provide an inspection, immigration clearance, or customs stamp, even if I had...

  9. HOME

    • CHAPTER 19 POST-TERROR: CREATING (THE ILLUSION OF) SECURITY
      (pp. 191-203)

      If you want to believe in security, don’t visit the ports. A journey to these borderlands shows that security is an illusion. The notion of security is the magician’s trick: smoke and mirrors, with a good dose of mis/direction.

      But if you want to join the small in-group of people who “get it”—a phrase those who see the reality of global supply chains and the illusion of security frequently use—walk the frontlines where water meets land; where the anarchy of the sea washes up against sovereignty. “Getting it,” Captain Neffenger of the U.S. Coast Guard at Los Angeles...

    • CHAPTER 20 CONCLUSION
      (pp. 205-209)

      Does the war orphan Okidi herald the emergence of new political formations? New economic (dis)orders? Does he represent one point in a vast sweep of relationships that are reconfiguring the world as we know it?

      Is his story—linked through the altruistic and the robber barons, the transnational organizations and the allure of global markets—merely that of capital meeting the technology of this emergent century? A story that has been revised and updated each century without changing the basic premise? Or are the very conceptual and societal organizations that ground our world changing before our eyes into something as...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 211-220)
  11. REFERENCES
    (pp. 221-224)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 225-234)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)