The Search for Mexico’s Disappeared
Forthcoming, Oxford University Press
How do people, living in settings marked by normalized rights violations, transform into rights-claiming and, ultimately, rights-bearing citizens? Bootstrap Justice centers the voices and perspectives of people whose lives have been upended by the disappearance of their loved ones in Mexico. It follows them as their understandings of the state and of themselves – as citizens and political actors – are transformed in the course of mobilization, and as they, in turn, reshape the landscape of impunity. Studies of impunity often focus on changing formal institutions, including legislative interventions, legal innovations and judicial reforms. By centering the experiences of crime victims, Gallagher offers unique insight into the critical but often overlooked role of informal relationships and dynamics in shaping substantive legal and human rights outcome: the power and possibilities of mobilized victims to name, shame, and investigate; the ways that shifting state-state and state-criminal alliances open and close legal opportunities; and the key role of state actors in defying institutional incentives for impunity or colluding to solidify them. Reflecting on these dynamics, Gallagher argues that as people participate in ongoing mobilization and claim-making over time (1) their legal consciousness shifts, and with these shifts, (2) their understandings of and ability to challenge the inner-workings of impunity are likewise transformed. Bootstrap Justice draws on over a decade of ethnographic work, allowing for in-depth analysis of the individuals involved in the daily struggle to find their loved ones, the organizations they form, and the state- and national-level legal and political contexts in which they operate. This multi-level, temporally-situated perspective provides unique insight into what has been achieved in the past decade, and draws lessons relevant beyond Mexico to countries struggling with legal accountability about what can be achieved in the struggle against impunity.
Other Recent Research:
Gallagher, J. & and J. Contesse. (forthcoming). “Critical Disconnects: Progressive Jurisprudence & Tenacious Impunity in Mexico.” Cambridge University Press. In Politics and Law in Latin America: New Questions, Historic Challenges, (Eds. D. Brinks, S. Botero, & E. Ocantos-Gonzalez).
Hilbink, L., V. Salas , J. Gallagher, and J. Restrepo-Sanin. (forthcoming). “Popular Mistrust of the Justice System and Legal Mobilization in Latin America.” Comparative Political Studies.
Gallagher, J (2019). The Judicial Breakthrough Model: Transnational Advocacy Networks and Lethal Violence. In A. Alejandro & B. Frey (Eds.) Mexico’s Human Rights Crisis (pp.250-271). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Hilbink, L. & J. Gallagher (2019). State and Law in Latin America: A Critical Assessment. In K. Ansolabehere & R. Sieder (Eds.) Handbook of Law and Society in Latin America. Routledge Press.
Gallagher, J. (2017). The last mile problem: activists, advocates, and the struggle for justice in domestic courts. Comparative Political Studies, 50(12), 1666-1698.