Violence As System:
A Case Study of Migrant Disappearances in Oaxaca
A missing person is a tragedy for any family. Different types of disappearance happen in dictatorships, authoritarian states and also in violent societies and failed states, like Mexico. We take into account the effects that it has on the families of the disappeared, their communities and civil society. The mistrust in state institutions and the consequences of a failed state system require system theory concepts to explain them. We propose a second order observation process to consider the complexity of these enforced disappearances and to describe the functions, elements and structures operating in the migrant system. We present a case study in Oaxaca to illustrate the problem. We use participant observation and interviews, from a process of support to families of missing migrants.
The paper is divided into five sections including introduction and conclusions. Firstly, it examines the phenomenon of disappearances from a general perspective. Secondly, migration in Mexico and the scene of the disappearances. Thirdly, through the case study, the effects that these disappearances have on families are displayed. The result is a typology of family archetypes and a theoretical framework to explain violence as a system.