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Trafficking in Trust: armoured cars in Guatemala City

Hosted by the Latin America and Caribbean Centre (LACC)

Vera Anstey Room, Old Building , United Kingdom


Professor Kevin Lewis O’Neill

Professor Kevin Lewis O’Neill

Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto

Dr Suzanne Hall

Dr Suzanne Hall

Associate Professor in Sociology, Director of the Cities Programme, Department of Sociology


Dr Austin Zeiderman

Dr Austin Zeiderman

Associate Professor of Geography, Department of Geography and Environment

Dozens of boutique auto-shops in Guatemala City fortify cars against varying levels of threat, from 9 mm pistols to military grade assault rifles. Mechanics line windows, wheels, and even skylights with bulletproof materials, promising an almost impenetrable vehicle amid a decidedly violent Central American city. In response to this growing confidence not just in Kevlar but also the intimacy of artisanal labour, this talk by Professor Kevin O’Neill engages the culture of armoured cars to open an ethnographic window into the imbrication of traffic and trust. As extended fieldwork evidences, mobile fortification reorients social relationships towards the imperative to trust—auto-shop owners, mechanics, and even the cars themselves—while also expanding the footprint of those who supposedly occupy the wrong side of a security wall. Professor O’Neill’s talk will be followed by a discussion led by Dr Suzanne Hall and chaired by Dr Austin Zeiderman.

This event is part of a three-year international research collaboration on Traffic in the Americas, which will explore the varied relationships between two different understandings of the word traffic. The first is vehicles moving on a road and the second is the trading in something illegal. The aim is to engage themes such as security, mobility, and infrastructure in the Americas from a novel perspective. The participating units include the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, the Latin American and Caribbean Centre at the LSE, the Institute on Equality and Democracy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios sobre Desarrollo at the Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia).

Dr Suzanne Hall (@LSEsociology)

Suzanne Hall is an urban ethnographer and has practised as an architect in South Africa. She is Co-director of the Cities Programme and Associate Professor in Sociology at the LSE. Suzi’s research and teaching interests explore intersections of global migration and urban marginalisation in the context of inequality, discrimination and resistance. Her research focuses on the street life of brutal borders, migrant economies and urban multi-culture.

Professor Kevin Lewis O'Neill (@UofTReligion)

A cultural and social anthropologist, Kevin Lewis O’Neill is Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of City of God (California 2010), Secure the Soul (California 2015), and Hunted (Chicago May 2019).

Dr Austin Zeiderman (@azeiderman)

Austin Zeiderman is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at the London School of Economics. He is an interdisciplinary scholar who specializes in the cultural and political dimensions of urbanization, development, and the environment in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a specific focus on Colombia. Austin holds a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University as well as a Master of Environmental Science degree from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Colgate University

Event Hashtag: #TraffickingInTrust

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