Nicholas Pope

Nicholas Pope is conducting PhD research on the political economy of violence in Rio de Janeiro and is based at SOAS, University of London.


After several years working for communications organisations in Buenos Aires, Munich and London, Nick returned to academia to complete an MSc in Globalisation and Development at SOAS, University of London. During the Masters he focused on illicit flows and the drugs trade in Mexico and Argentina. He started a PhD at SOAS, University of London in 2014. 

Research interests

Academic interests
  • Political economy of urban violence and development in middle-income countries
  • Processes of (dis)ordering
  • Elite power and politics
Professional interests
  • Analytical, research, or reporting focused consultancy work related to violence, security, and development issues in the context of Latin America.
Geographic areas of interest
  • Brazil
  • Latin America

PhD Research

University affiliation: SOAS, University of London (UK)

Title: (Dis)ordering functions of paramilitary groups in Rio de Janeiro (2000-2017)

Geographical area: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Abstract: Coalitions and bargaining processes involving actors from inside and outside the state system play critical roles in shaping the form and scale of violence. These processes are mediated by formal and informal institutions and are contingent on political, social and economic spatio-temporalities. By adopting a spatialized political economy approach I explore the idea that political settlements and bargaining processes are essential factors in shaping the form and function of violence in the urban environment, and that leads to hybrid forms of political and social (dis)order. The research involves field research over an 18-month period in Rio de Janeiro, with a focus on one of the armed actor groups in the city, the milícia (paramilitary). I adopt a case study approach geographically delimited by milícia domination, focusing on selected milícia groups within the west zone of the city. These groups are embedded in an ecosystem of networks, not least with the state police, gangs, politicians, residents, and civic leaders. I propose that a closer examination of milícia groups and understanding of their bargaining strategies and wider connections can explain the ebbs and flows of violence in the city. Furthermore, I argue that this actor/institution-centric approach offers more explanatory power than structural interpretations focused on, say, rapid urbanization, inequality, impunity, or other variables.


Twitter: @nickthepope

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