Alejandra Otamendi

PhD student in Sociology, University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris




Research project

Under what is called social reactions to crime, this thesis focus on the analysis of public demands of more severe punishment to offenders, a phenomenon conceptualized as public punitiveness and known colloquially in Spanish as “demandas de mano dura.” Public punitiveness includes the views and attitudes of the public, and prioritizes cognitive attitudes over affective and behavioural ones, such as punitive feelings (anger and desire for revenge) and punitive behaviour, both individually (revenge, self-defence) and collectively (protests, lynching). Also, public punitiveness refers to the attitudes and opinions of the general public, and not those of the experts or authorities. Finally, analytically, public punitiveness differs from punitiveness linked to political rhetoric, public policy and penal practices, although these phenomena are often part of the same socio-political process (punitive turn).

This thesis analyzes punitive demands of the residents of the City ofBuenos Airesduring the first decade of the XXI century. Some of the main questions are: At the aggregate level how public punitiveness evolved in this decade? Was there any relationship with the levels of recorded or declared crime or other environmental conditions? And compared with other perceptions of insecurity such as fear of crime, concern and risk of victimization? Did changes in the composition of punitive profiles occur between 2000 and 2010?

To carry out this study, a multiple-method strategy is followed. First, an integrated analysis of several victimization and public opinion surveys is conducted. Second, focus groups and online forums are analyzed in order to account for not covered dimensions and to validate quantitative survey results.

From the analysis done so far, I find that punitive attitudes are most significantly associated with certain ideological profiles of residents, even among individuals with different social background and crime experiences. At macro-level, it is remarkable the relative stability of punitive demands during the period of reference and the level of uniformity in the punitive profile. Finally, the hypothesis that such stability of punitive demands responds to an ideological background that is relatively stable over time is empirically supported.

Beyond the academic purpose, the study seeks to contribute to greater understanding of public punitiveness in a context with an authoritarian legacy, because in many cases the alleged generality of punitive claims is taken as an endorsement of repressive measures and statements by politicians. However, this research shows that most of the porteños did not support punitive measures, even when the levels of crime, concern and fear were higher and when this happened, they shared some ideological profile.


Licenciada in Sociology, University of Buenos Aires (UBA); Master in Global Governance and Diplomacy,University ofOxford. Nowadays I am a PhD student in Social Sciences, UBA and in Sociology, EHESS (Paris). I was Chevening Scholar of theUnited Kingdom and CONICET scholar ofArgentina.

I am a teacher and researcher in Social Research Methods (Quantitative and Qualitative) at the UBA, and researcher at the NGO Association for Public Policies (APP).

I have worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Argentina), at the UNDP (Argentina), SaferAfrica (South Africa), the Woodrow Wilson Center (USA), and on different research projects in Nicaragua,UruguayandMexico.

My areas of interest are: social research methods for crime studies; perceptions on crime and security; firearms violence and disarmament; police evaluation. I have published different papers on these issues.


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