In the mid-2000s, when authorities began to find bodies with hands bound, eyes blindfolded, and signs of torture dumped along Mexican border states, the media coined the term Colombianization to refer to the incapacity of the federal state to control extensive territories vis-à-vis the regional rule of drug lords. For over a decade, the phrase has been on everybody's lips. Yet it is not on Gabriela Polit Dueñas's, who successfully avoids this pervading discourse in Narrating Narcos: Culiacán and Medellín, a book that combines ethnographic fieldwork and literary criticism to trace the connections between politics, violence, and representation in the two historic urban centers of Mexico's and Colombia's drug industries, respectively. Building on Mexican sociologist Luis Astorga's pioneering work on narcotráfico as a performative term that “constructs a crime by naming it,” Polit explains that the tropes used to represent the...

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