Dr. J.C.G. (José Carlos G.) Aguiar

  • Lecturer
  • Urban space
  • Intellectual property
  • Illegality
  • Borders
  • Security
  • Mexico, Paraguay, Latin America

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2189
E-Mail: j.c.g.aguiar@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Institute for History, Latijns-Amerika studies
Office Address: Witte Singel-complex
van Wijkplaats 3
2311 BX Leiden
Room number 1.02a
Personal Homepage: www.josecarlosgaguiar.com

Fields of interest

I am specialized in cultures of illegality, intellectual property, borders, security and minority issues. My research interests include the ethnography of marketplaces, illegal commodity chains, digital piracy, security policies and border cities. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in Latin America, particularly in Mexico and the Iguazú Triangle, the urban cluster at the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.


Research Theme: Global circulations and cultures of illegality in urban economies. Under the influence of globalisation, the commodities and organisation of street vending and marketplaces has been transformed; new productive and commercial chains, agencies and legal frameworks have risen. Nevertheless, some of these new market opportunities challenge global systems of legality, and pose problems to the rule of law. The expansion in trade of pirated CDs and DVDs, counterfeit fashion garments or smuggling of industrial products, are here relevant examples. ‘Pirate’, ‘fake’ and smuggling economies in cities are entangled in an illegality mesh where informal and criminal activities coexist. These processes reveal the contention and limits of social definitions of illegality, and can only be understood as an unintended consequence of global neoliberalism. Empirical data is gathered in marketplaces and street commerce in Mexico and at the Iguazú Triangle, the cross-border urban conglomerate across Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.

Curriculum vitae

  • Assistant professor in the Department of Latin-American Studies (LAS), Leiden University.

  • Member of the National Researchers System (SNI), Level 1, CONACYT, Mexico.

  • Visiting fellow Research network on social inequalities in Latin America desiguALdades.net, Free University of Berlin.

  • Councilor, Executive Board Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (SLACA), section of the American Anthropologist Association. 

  • PhD in social sciences, University of Amsterdam (2007).


Teaching activities

  • Cultural Circulations and Illegality from a Global Perspective

  • The City in Latin America

  • Culture and Identity in Latin America

  • Research Methodologies for Latin America.

Key publications

2012    ‘“They Come from China”. Pirate CDs in a transnational perspective’ in Gordon Mathews, et al (eds.), Economic Globalization from Below, Routledge, London.

2012    ‘Cities on edge: illegality, police and the contestation of borders in South America’, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 33(2), pp.171-183.

2012    ‘The ‘war on piracy’: globalization and new illegalities in Mexico’ in Wil Pansters (ed.), Illegality, Violence and the State in Mexico, Stanford University Press, Palo Alto.

2011    ‘The Ambivalent Relation Between State and Illegal Actors: Piracy
Retail in Mexico’, Etnografica, 15(1).

2010    Stretching the Border: Smuggling Practices and the Control of Illegality in South America, New Voices Series, n. 6,  Global Consortium on Security Transformation (GCST).

2010    ‘La piratería como conflicto. Discursos sobre la propiedad intelectual en México’, Iconos, n.38.

2010    ‘Que siga la música. Neoliberalismo, piratería y la protección de los derechos de autor en México’, Renglones, n.62.

2009    ‘Nuevas ilegalidades en el orden global. Piratería y la escenificación del estado de derecho en México’, Foro Internacional, n. 196.

2008    Aguiar, José Carlos G. and María Eugenia Suárez de Garay (eds.). Policía, seguridad y transición política. Perspectivas sobre la reconfiguración del México contemporáneo. Cuadernos del CEDLA, Amsterdam.

2006    ‘Las políticas de seguridad en América Latina: policía, violencia y narcotráfico en México’, Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe, n. 81.

Last Modified: 10-12-2015