Academic work

Aguiar holds a tenured position as assistant professor at Leiden University, where he searves at the board Latin American Studies.

He has been distinguished as National Researcher, level I, Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (National Register of Researchers), Consejo Nacional para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (National Council for Science and Technology), Mexico.

As a visiting scholar, Aguiar has spent research stays at desiguALdades program at the Free University of Berlin (2012, 2013), and the Centre for Sociogical Studies, Colegio de México (2015).

From 2011-2013 Aguiar was a councilor member of the Executive Board Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (SLACA), section of the American Anthropologist Association.

See full CV

Research interests

By engaging in anthropological theory and methodologies, Aguiar investigates the legal regime of neoliberalism, and how it creates new definitions of legitimacy and legality. He also looks at forms of capitalism in popular economies, namely the cultural function of copying and reproduction in the digitla era. The main fields of interes are:

  1. Globalisation and street economies;
  2. Piracy, intellectual property and cultural circulations;
  3. Illegality and the formation of urban cultures;
  4. Urban policies, free trade zones, harbors and border cities;
  5. Regimes of legitimacy and legality.

Ongoing research projects

Currently, Aguiar is conducting the following projects:

- 'From Disorder to Order: Counter-Societies and the Resources of Legitimacy': based on a comparative study between Hezbollah in Lebanon, Taliban in Sri Lanka and Mexican drug cartels, this research looks into the definitions of morality and social order emerging from contexts of extreme violence and insecurity. Principles as honor, protection and justice are at stake, as much as the provision of security among other social goods. This project is carried out in collaboration with Prof.dr. Isabelle Duijvenstijn (Leiden University).

- 'The Popular Culture of Illegality in Latin America and the Caribbean': the Dutch organization for scientific research NWO has granted a 4-year subsidy to the project ‘The Popular Culture of Illegality: Criminal Authority and the Politics of Aesthetics in Latin America and the Caribbean’, elaborated in collaboration with Prof.dr. Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam) and Dr. Martijn Oosterbaan (University Utrecht).

- Ethnography of piracy retail in Mexico, with focus on the production and circulation of CDs, DVDs, and ‘fake’ fashion in marketplaces and street vending.


Selection published work

2015 ‘Making Sense of Borders: Global Circulations and the Rule of Law at the Iguazú Triangle’, in M. Jaskoski, A. Sotomayor and H. Trinukas (eds.) American Crossings: Border Politics in the Western Hemisphere, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 216-234.

2015 ‘“Vienen de China”. Los CDs piratas desde una perspectiva transnacional’, in C. Alba Vega, G. Lins Ribeiro and G. Mathews (eds.), La globalización desde abajo. La otra economía mundial, Fondo de Cultura Económica/Colegio de México, Mexico, 81-109.

2015 ‘Estados de simulación. Piratería, contrabando, neoliberalismo y el control de la ilegalidad en América Latina’, in C. Alba and P. Labazée (eds.) Metropolización, transformaciones mercantiles y gobernanza en los países emergentes, Colegio de México, Mexico, 541-592.

2013 ‘La ley de sacoleiros: Gobernabilidad, Contrabando y Estado de Derecho en el Comercio Transfronterizo del Triángulo del Iguazú’, in P. Silva and F. Rojas (eds.), Gobernabilidad y Convivencia Democrática en América Latina: Las dimensiones regionales, nacionales y locales, FLACSO, San José, 85-102.

2013 ‘Smugglers, Fayuqueros, Piratas: Transitory Commodities and Illegality in the Trade of Pirated CDs in Mexico’, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 36(2), 249–265.

2012 ‘“They Come from China”. Pirate CDs in a transnational perspective’ in Gordon Mathews, et al (eds.), Economic Globalization from Below, Routledge, London.

2012 ‘Cities on edge: illegality, police and the contestation of borders in South America’, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 33(2), 171-183.

2012 ‘The ‘war on piracy’: globalization and new illegalities in Mexico’ in Wil Pansters (ed.), Illegality, Violence and the State in Mexico, Stanford University Press, Palo Alto.

2011 ‘The Ambivalent Relation Between State and Illegal Actors: Piracy Retail in Mexico’, Etnografica, 15(1).

2010 Stretching the Border: Smuggling Practices and the Control of Illegality in South America, New Voices Series, n. 6, Global Consortium on Security Transformation (GCST).

2010 ‘La piratería como conflicto. Discursos sobre la propiedad intelectual en México’, Iconos, n.38.

2010 ‘Que siga la música. Neoliberalismo, piratería y la protección de los derechos de autor en México’, Renglones, n.62.

2009 ‘Nuevas ilegalidades en el orden global. Piratería y la escenificación del estado de derecho en México’, Foro Internacional, n. 196.

2008 Aguiar, José Carlos G. and María Eugenia Suárez de Garay (eds.). Policía, seguridad y transición política. Perspectivas sobre la reconfiguración del México contemporáneo. Cuadernos del CEDLA, Amsterdam.

2006 ‘Las políticas de seguridad en América Latina: policía, violencia y narcotráfico en México’, Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe, n. 81.




At BA level:

'The City in Latin America', Latin American Studies.

'Culture and Identity in Latin America', International Studies.

At MA level:

'Latin American Modernities: Resistance, Survival and Change', Latin American Studies.

'Neoliberalism and Illegality: Flows, Commodities, Locations', International Relations.