Narcosubmarines: outlaw innovation and maritime interdiction in the war on drugs
Javier Guerrero C (Instituto Tecnológico Metropolitano)
Paper short abstract:
I present an overview of the co-evolution of outlaw innovations by drug traffickers, specifically the narcosubmarines and the techniques and technologies used by the Colombian Navy to counter smugglers actions.
Paper long abstract:
Since the early 1990s, maritime routes have been considered as the main method used by Colombian smugglers to transport illicit drugs to consumer or transshipment countries. Smugglers have developed their own kind of artifacts, the narcosubs. The Colombian Navy has adopted several strategies and adapted several technologies in their attempt to control the flows of illicit drugs. I present an overview of the co-evolution of drug trafficking technologies and the techniques and technologies used by the Colombian Navy to counter the activities of drug smugglers. I emphasize on the process of self-building artifacts by smugglers, explained as a bricolage of local knowledge of traditional boat building with off-the-shelf technologies and in the localized character of the responses by the Navy personnel. I argue that explanations aiming to account for the process of innovation in outlaw contexts in which antagonistic relationships shape the actions of players must take into account the paradoxical and symbiotic relationship between players in the two sides. I use insights from the STS to the understanding of the dynamics of technological change in the War on Drugs and in particular the Biography of Artefacts and Practices perspective. Innovation Studies on users innovation and STS, specifically expanding on the work by Hyysalo, Usenyuk and Whalen (Hyysalo & Usenyuk, 2015; Usenyuk, Svetlana; Whalen, 2016) is useful to understand Outlaw Innovation and provide an analysis that avoids the shortcomings that emphasise a process of pull/push with interdiction as the main driver of smuggler innovations.
Outlaw innovation and the invention of the outlaw