"Outlaw Capital" Book Launch & Reception

Jennifer Tucker

Monday, October 02, 2023 | 05:30 pm

Garcia Honda Auditorium, George Pearl Hall

2401 Central Ave NE


Join us for author and UNM faculty Jennifer Tucker's book launch and lecture with comments from Alyosha Goldstein (American Studies) and Renia Ehrenfeucht (Community & Regional Planning). Reception to follow.



 With an ethnography of the largest contraband economy in the Americas running through Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, Outlaw Capital shows how transgressive economies and gray spaces are central to globalized capitalism. 

A key site on the China-Paraguay-Brazil trade route, Ciudad del Este moves billions of dollars’ worth of consumer goods—everything from cell phones to whiskey—providing cheap transit to Asian manufacturers and invisible subsidies to Brazilian consumers. A vibrant popular economy of Paraguayan street vendors and Brazilian “ant contrabandistas” capture some of the city’s profits, contesting the social distribution of wealth through an insurgent urban epistemology of use, need, and care. Yet despite the city’s centrality, it is narrated as a backward, marginal, and lawless place. 

Outlaw Capital contests these sensationalist stories, showing how uneven development and the Paraguayan state made Ciudad del Este a gray space of profitable transgression. By studying the everyday illegalities of both elite traders and ordinary workers, Jennifer L. Tucker shows how racialized narratives of economic legitimacy across scales—not legal compliance—sort whose activities count as formal and legal and whose are targeted for reform or expulsion. Ultimately, reforms criminalized the popular economy while legalizing, protecting, and “whitening” elite illegalities. 


“Outlaw Capital navigates Ciudad del Este’s labyrinthine street economy—its contraband hidden in plain sight—to show how licit and illicit flows of goods become entangled with state power to produce shifting boundaries of (il)legality. This is a first-rate global ethnography that reveals a partially hidden abode of commodity circulation that has become central to capitalist accumulation.”—Nik Theodore, coauthor of Fast Policy: Experimental Statecraft at the Thresholds of Neoliberalism 


Jennifer L. Tucker is assistant professor in the Community and Regional Planning Department at the University of New Mexico. She has published articles in journals such as Antipode, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and Planning Theory, among others. 


This event is free and open to the public.