The Language of the Mexican Drug War

When and Where

Friday, March 24, 2023 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Victoria College 101
91 Charles St. West, first floor


Oswaldo Zavala


About the Presentation:

The phenomenon of drug trafficking in Mexico has always been determined by language. This conversation will review an intellectual history of how the narrative of the “war on drugs” was constructed. Based on an investigation of official archives, journalism, academic research, and cultural productions on drug trafficking, La guerra en las palabras (War Within Words) reviews the historical arc of the language through which the “drug war” is inscribed in our contemporary society. It is not a history of the mythical “narcos,” but of the language that turned them into internal enemies, into caricatures of film and TV series, and ultimately, into a threat to "national security."

About the Presenter:

Oswaldo Zavala is Professor of Contemporary Latin American Literature and Culture at the College of Staten Island and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of La modernidad insufrible. Roberto Bolaño en los límites de la literatura latinoamericana contemporánea (2015), Volver a la modernidad. Genealogías de la literatura mexicana de fin de siglo (2017), Los cárteles no existen. Narcotráfico y cultura en México (2018), and La guerra en las palabras. Una historia intelectual del “narco” (1975-2020) (2022). He co- edited,with Viviane Mahieux, Tierras de nadie: el norte en la narrativa mexicana contemporánea (2012); with José Ramón Ruisánchez, Materias dispuestas: Juan Villoro ante la crítica (2011); and with Magdalena Perkowska, Tiranas ficciones. Poética y política de la escritura en la obra de Horacio Castellanos Moya (2018). He has published more than 40 articles on contemporary Latin American narrative, the U.S.-Mexico border, and the link between violence, culture, and late capitalism. His article “Imagining the US-Mexico Drug War: The Critical Limits of Narconarratives” won the 2015 Humanities Essay Award of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Mexico Section. He is a frequent collaborator of Proceso, Mexico’s leading political magazine.


Please note: this event will be hosted both in-person and remotely. Kindly visit the Eventbrite registration page and choose your preferred attendance option.


Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Centre for Comparative Literature, Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies


91 Charles St. West, first floor