Monday, August 15, 2022

R. V. Gundur's "Trying to Make It"

R. V. Gundur is a Senior Lecturer of Criminology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

Gundur applied the Page 99 Test to his book, Trying to Make It: The Enterprises, Gangs, and People of the American Drug Trade, and reported the following:
Page 99 wraps up a discussion where I canvass the operations of Barrio Azteca, a prison gang, in a chapter entitled “Violence.” In “Violence” I write about some of the most visible issues the public associates with the drug trade, the very things that are hot button topics on talk shows and political platforms. In the public’s eye, the drug trade is violent and destructive. That narrative peddles a threat narrative that drug-related violence is going to spill over into the US and ruin America. With that in mind, the discussion of Barrio Azteca ends with the following paragraph:
Despite the turmoil in Juárez, Barrio Azteca’s power struggles have not manifested in El Paso. The calm that Barrio Azteca maintains in its US operations reflects how the organization understands that the violence it uses in Juárez cannot be used north of the border, where violence could easily destroy its steady and profitable business activities. It’s a business sense that most drug trafficking organizations appear to share. In Mexico, clear hot spots of violence have appeared in mid- to large-size cities on or near the US-Mexican border. However, on the US side of the border, port cities and transportation hubs that import drugs or the precursor products used to synthesize them from South America and Asia are not hot at all; in fact, most of the time they aren’t even lukewarm.
This paragraph challenges the threat narrative by emphasizing two core themes of the book. First, the drug trade is a business, run by illicit businesspeople who, like licit businesspeople, make decisions to maximize their earnings. Second, high-level actors in the drug trade perpetuate little violence on US soil.

Trying to Make It is inherently about the business and banalities of the drug trade, and in this case, the Page 99 Test offers readers a core understanding of the former. The book aims, among other things, to demystify the drug trade; this page foreshadows that goal. Because Trying to Make It looks at various levels of the drug trade as it occurs at three different sites, there are several other themes and geographies that are canvassed in the book that don’t make an explicit appearance on page 99. These include the everyday lives of people who are or have been involved in the drug trade, the realities of various levels of business within the drug trade, and how the drug trade unfolds in the Phoenix and Chicago areas.
Visit R. V. Gundur's website and follow him on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue