Faculty Spotlight

March Faculty Spotlight with Marxe Chair of Western Hemisphere Affairs and Professor, Desmond Arias

mar 18 faculty spotlight

In the fall of 2017 the Marxe School launched the Master of International Affairs program. One of its tracks, Western Hemisphere Affairs, takes a look at trade, economics, and migration in the Americas. In this month’s faculty spotlight we speak to new professor, Desmond Arias about teaching, the MIA, traveling, and his book and research on crime in South American cities.

What fascinates you about security and politics in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Latin America and the Caribbean face immense challenges with crime and security and, with the exception of areas affected by civil conflict, it is the world's most violent region. The type of crime that Latin America and the Caribbean faces, in which homicide rates are often higher than in civil wars, is one of the emerging security challenges of the 21st Century. Finding policy responses to address crime and violence in the region is a critical area of research to improve the well-being of the region's population and those of other parts of the world facing similar challenges.

Tell us about the book you’re currently writing on crime in South American cities; what cities are you focusing on and why?
This project focuses on crime in Bogotá, Colombia, Lima, Peru, and Santiago, Chile. My colleagues and I argue that particular ways that cities in Latin America have been built through land invasions and confrontation between the settlers of these areas and the government has contributed to the complex public safety environment in the region. We chose these cities because much of the writing on crime in Latin America has focused on highly violent cities like Medellín or Ciudad Juarez. Here we focus on four less violent cities which helps us to understand the dynamics of the cities themselves and policy responses to the types of everyday crime that affects millions in the region.

Have you traveled to any of the cities you’re writing about for your book? What was that experience like?
Yes, I have travelled to Bogotá and Lima. They are both fascinating cities. The research enabled me to learn about the nature of security in poor and working class neighborhoods in each city. The research helped me to get out of the wealthy areas of the cities frequently visited by foreigners and brought me to more isolated areas of the city, high on mountain sides and, in one case, on a giant sand dune, where most inhabitants live.

What is most satisfying about teaching? What about researching?
Both research and teaching are wonderful activities. Watching the progress of students and seeing them make progress towards developing the knowledge they need in pursuit of professional goals is wonderful. It is also great to see how former students careers are going once they have graduated. Research offers me the opportunity to contribute to building knowledge and solving social problems. It is really exciting to learn new things and to develop ideas in writing. It is particularly rewarding when other scholars and policy makers build on these ideas in their own work.

What are you most looking forward to accomplishing during your tenure at the Marxe School?
I hope to contribute to building the track in Western Hemisphere affairs in Masters in International Affairs program and contributing to the school's already vibrant work on policymaking in the Americas.

What will you be teaching?
In [spring 2018] I am teaching illicit trade; in the fall I will be teaching courses on Western Hemisphere affairs and post-conflict institution building.