Introduction: Setting the stage

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4 Scopus citations


“It is a dream come true for criminals and terrorists to find a place where no one can look for them, and where they can mix with, ally with … and work with minimum interference from legal authority” (Levitsky, International Studies Review 10: 392–395, 2008). These safe havens have been called a variety of names from ‘dark corners’ (Crane, International Studies Review 10: 387–391, 2008) to “geopolitical black holes” (Naim, Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy. New York: Anchor Books, 2005)—areas governed by transnational criminal, terrorist, and insurgent organizations that are outside effective state-based government control and are sustained by illicit economic activities. The Daniel Patrick Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs in its Mapping Global Insecurity Project has, to date, identified 150 such places around the globe and completed in-depth case studies of 80. We call these geographic locations ‘black spots,’ recognizing that they represent particular locations that do not fit within our usual definitions of a state. Much like the black holes in astronomy that defy the laws of Newtonian physics, these black spots defy the world as defined by the Westphalian state system. In effect, they provide us with a map of the world as viewed through the eyes of organizations engaged in transnational criminal activities. These black spots are the nodes connecting and facilitating the illicit activities of such organizations and their trafficking in drugs, weapons, people, money, natural resources, household goods, and violence. This chapter sets the stage for the rest of the book, describing the project, its methodology, and the various research questions it was intended to address such as the nature of black spots; how they are governed, financed, and operate; and how they challenge us to rethink sovereignty and the global economy. Throughout the book, we use examples from 80 in-depth case studies and the data that have resulted from asking the same questions of each case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Political Economy Series
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • Political Science and International Relations


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