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Before the Body Count: Homicide Statistics and Everyday Security in Latin America

Abstract
Abstract

Homicide statistics are a widely accepted metric of security and democracy. This article argues for a focus on how bodies come or do not come to be counted – of what happens before states enumerate. The experience of São Paulo relates that how many people die and how many do not is connected to the governance of an organised crime group known as the PCC. The punishment practices of the PCC and groups like it throughout Latin America reshape the lived paradigm of governance over life and death, albeit in concealed ways. Statistics are produced by and are productive of a de jure state, different from the state de facto. The acceptance of state-made homicide figures, whether for analysis, visualisation or political claims, is consequential for the future of lived security and social science knowledge production.

Spanish abstract

Las estadísticas de homicidios son ampliamente aceptadas como medidas de seguridad y democracia. Este artículo busca un enfoque sobre cómo los cuerpos pueden ser o no ser contados – o qué pasa antes de que el Estado cuente los cuerpos. La experiencia de São Paulo demuestra que cuánta gente muere y cuánta no se conecta con el mandato de un grupo del crimen organizado conocido como el PCC. Las prácticas punitivas del PCC y de otros grupos similares a lo largo de Latinoamérica reconfiguran el paradigma de gobernabilidad sobre la vida y la muerte, aunque de forma velada. Las estadísticas son producidas por y producen un Estado de jure, diferente del Estado de facto. La aceptación de cifras de homicidio hechas por el Estado, ya sea para análisis, visualización o reclamos políticos tiene consecuencias para la seguridad y la producción de conocimiento desde las ciencias sociales.

Portuguese abstract

Taxas de homicídio são aceitas como índices medidores de segurança e democracia. Este artigo propõe o enfoque na maneira pela qual corpos são ou não contabilizados; no que acontece antes que o Estado quantifique estes corpos. A experiência de São Paulo demonstra que a quantidade de pessoas que morrem ou deixam de morrer está ligada ao comando de um grupo organizado conhecido como PCC. As práticas de punição do PCC e de outros grupos similares na América Latina reconfiguram o paradigma real de governança sobre a vida e a morte, ainda que de maneira velada. As estatísticas são produzidas e oriundas de um Estado de jure, ao invés de um Estado de facto. A aceitação das estatísticas produzidas pelo Estado com relação ao número de homicídios, seja para fins de análise, observação ou questões políticas, tem consequências para o futuro da segurança concreta dos cidadãos e para a produção de conhecimento nas ciências sociais.

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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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