About me

I am Visiting Scholar at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and affiliate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Research Cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion.

At the University of Oxford, I am the Director of the Global Security Programme and Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, and at the Department of Politics and International Relations, as well as adjunct faculty at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government where I teach on global security and transnational organized crime. I am further affiliate at Oxford’s Latin American Centre and Research Associate at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, Graduate Institute Geneva.

I advise governments and international organizations, and I am a regular expert for internationally renowned media outlets.

Before taking up my current role, I was the Director of Studies at the Changing Character of War Centre at Oxford, and also served as Fellow on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on International Security.

My work focuses on global security in the contemporary world. I study evolving security dynamics in the context of armed conflict and the global illicit economy, transitions from war to peace, and state responses to insecurity, including implications for governance. I am particularly interested in the role that diverse types of violent non-state groups (such as insurgents, paramilitaries, terrorists, criminals, militias, or gangs) play in these dynamics. Among other areas, I focus on the political economy of borderlands as spaces where criminal, terrorist, and conflict dynamics converge.

I am fascinated by using ethnographic methods in Political Science and International Relations, as well as multi-methods research that not only embraces both qualitative and quantitative methods, but is also in dialogue with the humanities, arts, and STEM. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in war-torn and crisis-affected regions, including in and on Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Myanmar, and Kenya (on Somalia). My ongoing research analyses changing conflict dynamics and security landscapes in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

I am Principal Investigator of the Conflict Platform Project and of CONPEACE. I am the author of Borderland Battles: Violence, Crime, and Governance at the Edges of Colombia’s War (Oxford University Press, 2019), which appeared in Spanish as “Fronteras Rojas: Una Mirada al Conflicto y el Crimen desde los Márgenes de Colombia, Ecuador y Venezuela” by Penguin Randomhouse (2021), and co-editor of Transforming the War on Drugs: Warriors, Victims, and Vulnerable Regions (Oxford University Press/Hurst Publishers, 2021). My work has appeared in journals such as World Politics, Third World Quarterly, and the Journal of Global Security Studies.

My work has been recognized among others by the American Political Science Association’s International Security Best Article 2021 Award and the Latin American Studies Association’s Defense, Public Security & Democracy Section Best Article Award 2021. I also won the 2020 University of Oxford’s Vice Chancellor Innovation Award for my work on “Re-thinking Conflict, Building Peace”. My research has been supported by bodies such as the UK Research Councils, the Global Challenges Research Fund, the Social Science Research Council, the Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership, Higher Education Innovation Funding, Global Affairs Canada, and the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, and the German National Academic Foundation.

I hold a doctorate from the Department of International Development and at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford. I obtained a MA in International Relations with Distinction from King’s College London’s Department of War Studies and a BA double degree in German-Spanish Studies/International Politics from the University Complutense of Madrid, Spain, and the University of Regensburg, Germany. I worked for UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the German Development Organisation InWEnt (now GIZ) as well as the German Embassy in San José, Costa Rica.