Murder in the Public Sphere in Contemporary Mexico

March 26, 2009 - 4:00 pm

Pablo A. Piccato, Columbia University

Homicide in contemporary Mexico is a serious problem. Its frequency is rising and it has come to represent a challenge to the state’s ability to guarantee safety and the rule of law. A historical approach to the phenomenon reveals that throughout the twentieth century individual cases of murder had been interpreted by Mexican audiences as containing important lessons about their relationship with the state and the strength of civil society. The forms in which police news covered it and detective novel reflected upon its meaning demonstrate the power of murder to create an informed, critical public within a political regime that otherwise exercised almost complete control over public discourse.

About the Speaker:
Pablo Piccato is associate professor at the Department of History and Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies, Columbia University. He joined the faculty at Columbia on 1997, where he as taught courses on Latin America and Mexico. He was Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Department of History, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, member of the University Senate and of the executive committees of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Institute of Latin American Studies. He has been a fellow and is member of the International Advisory Board of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego. In Mexico he has taught courses at universities in Mexico City, Morelia, Xalapa, Culiacán. He was a member of the editorial board of Signos Históricos and is member of the boards of Law and History Review and the Hispanic American Historical Review.
His work focuses on the social and political history of modern Mexico, with particular interest in crime, politics, and culture. He received his B.A. from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in 1989 and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997. His published work includes City of Suspects: Crime in Mexico City, 1900-1931 (Duke University Press, 2001), Congreso y Revolución: El parlamentarismo en la XXVI Legislatura (Cámara de Diputados, 1991), the edition of El Poder Legislativo en las décadas revolucionarias (Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de la Revolución Mexicana, 1997), of Actores, espacios y debates en la historia de la esfera pública en la ciudad de México (Instituto Mora, 2005), with Cristina Sacristán, and of True Stories of Crime in Modern Mexico (University of New Mexico Press, 2009), with Robert Buffington. Forthcoming books include The Tyranny of Opinion: Honor in the Construction of the Mexican Public Sphere (Duke University Press). He is currently working on a political biography of poet Salvador Díaz Mirón, and on a history of Mexican civil society’s responses to crime from the 1920s to the present.